Aerosol particles in the air originating from a number of sources, including motor vehicles, industrial processes and forest fires, reduce air quality and can lead to asthma and cardiovascular problems, among other illnesses. The standard method for keeping tabs on the air-polluting particles relies on pumping air through filters, which are then submitted for costly and time-consuming chemical extraction and analysis.
Did you know?
As the No.1 source of air pollution in the U.S., transportation yields nearly two-thirds of the carbon monoxide, a third of the nitrogen oxides, and a quarter of the hydrocarbons to our atmosphere. Source: The Union of Concerned Scientists
Professor Andrey Khlystov, a civil and environmental engineer who has previous experience in developing new environmental monitoring instruments, is leading an effort at the Pratt School to develop a low-cost, miniaturized aerosol detector that might ultimately automate the entire aerosol detection process, from sample collection to chemical readout, potentially making more widespread air quality monitoring feasible. People might even carry personal samplers with them to keep tabs on their personal level of pollutant exposure.
Khlystov’s new device puts an environmental spin on digital microfluidic-based, lab-on-a-chip systems first developed in electrical and computer engineering professor Richard Fair's lab, which use electrical fields to manipulate tiny droplets one by one. The microfluidic hardware is expected to also find use in conducting blood tests with much smaller volumes than now required and real-time DNA sequencing, among other applications.
Digital microfluidics: microfluidics.ee.duke.edu