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  • Picarro to Develop Pollutant Monitor
Feb 2006
SUNNYVALE, Calif., Feb. 6, 2006 -- Picarro Inc., a manufacturer of high-performance lasers and laser-based instruments, was awarded a Phase I SBIR contract by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop instrumentation for source and ambient detection of acrolein. The instrument to be developed will be based on Picarro's cavity ring down spectroscopy (CRDS) and could help researchers better understand the human health and environmental impact of acrolein exposure, the company said.

Acrolein is a ubiquitous pollutant used chemically as an herbicide and released into the atmosphere during combustion -- such as from burning vegetation (e.g., forest fires), waste incinerators, furnaces, fireplaces, gasoline -- and diesel-engine emissions, power plants, cigarette smoke and even cooking, Picarro said. It is a highly toxic pollutant that can cause respiratory irritation from exposure to 90 part-per-billion (ppb) concentration levels and can be lethal above 150 parts-per-million (ppm). It is listed by the EPA as a Hazardous Air Pollutant, defined by the Federal Clean Air Act as being a threat or risk of cancer or other serious adverse health affects.

Picarro said it intends to develop a highly sensitive, continuous monitor capable of automatically measuring acrolein in field deployments at ppb levels.

"Current methods for acrolein measurement in ambient air are complex and error-prone and prohibit the continuous collection of concentration data," according to the company.

Work under this award is expected to take place from March through August and will include building a CRDS instrument that operates in a suitable wavelength region, identifying specific acrolein absorption peaks to be measured, and characterizing the effect on acrolein measurement of atmospheric interferents such as H2O, CO2 and CO. Picarro has applied its CRDS technology to make ultrasensitive measurements of a variety of other gases, including CO2 and isotopic CO2, H2O and isotopic H2O, NH3, and H2S.

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