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Project Type
UTRC Advanced Technology Initiative
Project Dates
12/31/2007 - 12/31/2008
Principal Investigators
Project Status
Executive Summary

The testing of soil samples is performed during all phases of DOT related construction (planning, building, and post construction). This is done to ensure that the soil removed is not contaminated and when construction is complete to ensure that the environmental impact of the structure is minimized. NYS-DOT spends approximately $10-12M/yr on the testing of soil and groundwater samples, which does not include the NYC-DOT. By moving the majority of these tests from an off-site analytical lab, to a field portable device the overall cost of construction budgets will be significantly lower and construction projects will experience fewer delays due to untimely analytical lab reports.

For the past 3.5 years we have been developing quantum dot (QD) based hydrocarbon sensing materials which have displayed detection limits as low as 15ppm and an enhanced degree of selectivity for the detection of xylenes over toluene. While these studies have shown great promise more work is required to develop this technology into prototype devices. Therefore, through UTRC funding beginning in January 2007 we have begun to develop and evaluate a cost and space effective sensing assembly which will leverage our past and future hydrocarbon sensor development efforts funded by the NYS-DOT. The UTRC funded program is developing and evaluating the proof of concept for a portable and cost effective hydrocarbon sensor based on a compact optical spectrometer which monitors the changes in photoluminescence of arrays of hydrocarbon sensitive quantum dots (QDs). Through this program we have recently demonstrated the ability to detect xylenes at 50ppm concentration levels. While this is a very promising result given the cost effective hardware that is being used in this program, this detection limit needs to be reduced to 100ppb levels for this device to have a range of environmental applications. Therefore, we propose to expand this program to include the following new initiatives during the 2007-08 program: 1)Investigation of QD based materials with ppb level sensitivity through the use of resonant energy transfer sensing mechanisms, 2)Deposition of QD arrays to increase the sensing dynamic range to ppb to % level concentrations, 3)Optimization of 6 element arrays for increased selectivity, and 4)Implementation of the pattern recognition software selected during the 2006-07 program. The intellectual merit of this program will be realized in the development of next generation hydrocarbon sensing systems based on the novel properties of quantum dot nanomaterials and their integration into a cost effective sensing assembly. Broader impacts will be realized in the application of this cost effective hydrocarbon sensing technology which includes soil, groundwater, indoor and outdoor air quality, and homeland security within a broad range of technology sectors that include transportation, environmental quality, defense, agricultural and many others.

The proposed work will support a graduate student and by leveraging the NYS-DOT program an additional 2 graduate students and a postdoctoral associate will provide additional assistance to the hydrocarbon sensor program. Furthermore the work will be performed at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany – SUNY which is establishing a research focus center based on the development and integration of a range of technologies to enable sensor systems deployment in a range of environmental applications. These technology focus areas include: 1) Chemical and physical sensors, 2) Radiation hard materials, 3) Corrosion resistant materials, 4) Self cleaning and healing systems, and 5) Intelligent sensor networks. The proposed research initiative would likewise leverage research initiatives housed within this research center.

This project was cosponsored by the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation through the University Transportation Centers program.