Blacksburg, Va. Developing a credit-card-sized gas chromatography platform that can analyze volatile compounds within seconds is the next step for Virginia Tech College of Engineering researcher Masoud Agah, who has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award to support his research.
Agah, an assistant professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an affiliate member of the Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty, recently secured a five-year CAREER grant worth $400,000. This is the NSFs most prestigious award for creative junior faculty who are considered to be future leaders in their academic fields.
Gas chromatography is the primary technique used in a number of scientific, medical, and industrial settings to separate and analyze volatile compounds in gases, liquids, and solids.
Medical researchers, for example, can isolate volatile organic compounds in breath samples for early diagnosis or evaluation of certain metabolic conditions and diseases. Acetone in a patients breath can be a marker for diabetes, Agah said, and scientists have identified a group of compounds that appear to be markers for breast cancer.
Gas chromatography is used in the field of environmental monitoring to identify certain air pollutants and drinking water and groundwater contaminants. Homeland security and military personnel can rely on the technique to test air samples for chemical warfare agents, such as sarin and mustard gases. The technique also is widely used in food processing, the petrochemical industry, and a number of other fields.
Currently, gas chromatography systems consist of a gas tank, sample injector, separation column, and gas detector. Samples to be analyzed are vaporized and injected into the column, where compounds are separated and then passed over the detector. Conventional systems tend to be large, fragile, and rel
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