Department of Energy, Oak Ridge Operations - Oak Ridge, TN
(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
The ORNL needed a low cost, effective, and portable sensor apparatus to detect polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in support of gasket and duct removal projects.
ORNL and Michigan State University teamed and directed their collective resources to design, develop and build a modified surface acoustic wave (SAW) device whose frequency is selectively depressed by the absorption of PCBs. This technology provides an extremely sensitive technique to quantitatively measure PCB levels. The SAW device is manufactured in-house and has been applied in analysis of PCBs found in oil, sludge, water, and cement. Sample preparation and analysis is accomplished in seven minutes at a cost of $5 to $10 per test. Current price tests are $40 per test and produce potentially hazardous waste.
As a result of this effort, additional benefits in the areas of non-selective polymers, functional polymers, polymer oxide glasses, and siliconization reagents were realized. This sensing device can also detect several other organic chemicals of interest in environment monitoring. A reduction of up to 75% of the extensive laboratory analysis can be eliminated by using the portable sensor apparatus. Techniques are continually being developed for concrete and rubber samples and to further increase the detection limit for PCBs.