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Project Objective

The purpose of this project is to explore and then develop and evaluate a portable petroleum hydrocarbon sensor based on a micro-concentrator and nanoparticle fluorescence. This device will be used to test soil samples for levels of petroleum hydrocarbons that include gasoline, diesel fuel and dielectric fluids containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The device will provide an accurate and simple field analysis of soil samples, thereby reducing the time and money spent on laboratory analysis of field samples, and minimizing the downtime at construction sites waiting for analytical lab results. All documentation should be sufficient and adequate to assist U.S. EPA and State environmental agencies in evaluating the device for potential approval as field method for measuring petroleum-related contaminants.

Project Abstract

Petroleum contaminated soil and groundwater are the most common contaminants encountered by transportation agencies (National Research Council, 1993). Contaminated soils affect the design, construction and real estate acquisitions of these agencies. Hence, more realistic quantities and bids, minimization of construction delays, and fair compensation for contaminated property would be achieved if "clean" zones could be delineated early in project design. Traditional approaches used in screening for contaminated zones are field instruments such as photo ionization detectors (PIDs) or flame ionization detectors (FIDs). Based on elevated field readings soil and/or groundwater samples are then collected and sent to an off-site laboratory for analysis. This slow, cumbersome approach does not work well for projects with tight design schedules or when unexpected contamination is found during construction. An accurate, real-time method that produces data of comparable quality to standard U .S. EP An analytical tests would be of great benefit to New York State and others in the environmental field.

Task Descriptions

Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research. NYSDOT is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and research period. Proposals must present the proposer's current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objectives.

  • Evaluation of porous layer open tubular capillaries (PLOT) for pre-concentrators for trapping compounds characteristic of gasoline, diesel fuel or PCBs;
  • Determination of transmission efficiency curves of PLOT column/waveguides;
  • Integration of metal and metal-metal nanoparticles into the PLOT column;
  • Design and installation of a rapid thermal desorption chamber for soil samples;
  • Installation of a program controlled thermal ramp for desorption of compounds from PLOT column and post-cleaning cycle,
  • Measurement of optical fluorescence of nanoparticles within PLOT column upon exposure to the various compounds, optimization of nanoparticles to achieve maximum changes upon exposure;
  • Integration of sample thermal desorber, PLOT column array with thermal ramp, and optics into first generation device for complete testing; and
  • Testing and evaluation of a first generation device.


Student Involvement

This project will involve several undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students in data collection, presentations, literature documentations and report preparation.

Relationship with Other Research Activities


Technology Transfer Activities


Benefits of the Project
  • Progress reports prepared every 3rd month of the project
  • A Phase 1 completion report, which documents findings to date (thru Phase 1) and an assessment of the prospects for development of portable petroleum by-product sensor during Phase 2 of the project
  • Progress reports prepared every third month of the project
  • A Final Completion Report which documents findings for Phases 1 & 2
  • Technical specifications at the end of Phase 2 for a portable petroleum by-product sensor.
Key Words

Hydrocarbons, Sensors, petroleum, contaminants