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Fluorescence-Solid Phase Extraction (F-SPE) Platform for Rapid, On-site Detection of PFAS

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R43ES035349-01
Agency Tracking Number: R43ES035349
Amount: $276,312.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIEHS
Solicitation Number: PA22-176
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-05-16
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-04-30
Small Business Information
Salt Lake City, UT 84108-1267
United States
DUNS: 961737421
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 (413) 726-8850
Business Contact
Phone: (801) 935-7245
Research Institution

Project Summary
Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have become an emerging class of water pollutants
that cause serious environmental and health concerns. Due to their wide use in industry, military,
and fire protection, PFAS have been spread and present in all kinds of water bodies. Among the
over thousand PFAS ever manufactured and used, perfluorooctanesulfonic (PFOS) and
perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) represent the top two PFAS used and studied the most for health
effects. Recent studies indicate a tight linkage between exposure to these PFAS and many kinds
of diseases and health effects. Currently, the advisory level set by the US EPA set for PFOS and
PFOA in drinking water is 70 ppt (0.14 and 0.17 nM for PFOS and PFOA). Current detection of
PFAS is mostly based on liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS).
However, the costs, footprint, power requirements, and sample preparation processes often
associated with the LC-MS technologies limit their deployment beyond the formal laboratory
setting. Especially for the detection of nanomolar levels of PFAS, LC-MS usually requires a
preconcentration frontend device, making the analysis even more time-consuming. It becomes
imperative to develop a rapid, simple, and low-cost sensor technology that is more suited for quick
onsite detection of PFAS. While many chemical sensors, such as those based on fluorescence
modulation, have been developed for the detection of PFAS, most of them are still far from
sufficient for potable water analysis regarding either sensitivity (vs. 70 ppt) or selectivity (against
the common chemicals, especially detergents).
This project aims to fill this technical gap by developing a unique sensor platform that is small and
easy to use, offering sensitive and selective infield detection of PFOS and PFOA (selected as the
representative PFAS analytes). The sensor platform is based on highly sensitive and selective
fluorescence sensors coated onto solid-phase extraction (SPE) capable of preconcentration of
low concentrations of analyses, thus lowering the detection limit. The combination of
preconcentration of SPE and fluorescence detection in one platform (namely F-SPE) would
significantly simplify and speed up the analysis process. Moreover, F-SPE takes the principle of
negligible depletion (ND) intrinsic to SPE, which would further simplify the analysis process by
eliminating the need to precisely meter the sample volume as typically required for conventional
analytical methods.
ND relies on passing the minimal amount of sample through the membrane that is required for
the analyte extraction to reach equilibrium. At this point, the analyte concentrations in the sample
entering and exiting the membrane are equal. As a result, the surface concentration of the analyte
can be directly correlated to its concentration in the sample but is no longer dependent on the
volume of the sample passed through the membrane. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to
meter an exact sample volume through the membrane. The main innovation herein lies in
integrating the high sensitivity and selectivity of fluorescence sensors with the preconcentration
capability and ND principle of SPE, which will enable quick, reliable detection of PFAS in a simple,
low-cost way.
The project will be implemented around three specific aims:
Specific Aim 1. Synthesis and surface immobilization of fluorophores selective to either PFOS
or PFOA to in-house fabricated SPE disks.
Specific Aim 2. Evaluation of F-SPE/ND for PFOS and PFOA detection.
Specific Aim 3. Commercialization Assessment.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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