Analyze Samples in the Lab or Field with this New Portable Fluorescence Spectrometer

PROBLEM: 1.) Important science topics are sometimes not addressed in high schools because spectroscopy instruments are too expensive to purchase and maintain  2.) Field technicians have to take water and soil samples to a lab for spectroscopy analysis, adding time and complication  3.) Valuable data is not available from remote sensors due to spectrometer power and durability limitations.

SOLUTION: A portable, durable florescence spectrometer that costs 50% less than comparable instruments in most applications due to its novel design and simple components.

HOW IT WORKS: Fluorescence spectrometers measure the light passing through a sample to identify what is present in the sample.  To do this, the light must first be split light into a spectrum by a spectrometer component called the diffraction grating. Traditional fluorescence spectrometers use small, precision-made flat diffraction gratings coupled with a high power light source.  Spectrometers of this design cost upwards of $2,000 and require periodic replacement of $700 lamps.  They are not portable because of the delicate instrumentation and the large amount of power required for the light source.

Our instrument instead uses a larger circular diffraction grating – similar in appearance to a music CD that has been shaped into a bowl – and a  small, inexpensive, low power ultraviolet LED light source.  The diffraction grating focuses the small amount of light so effectively that the entire instrument can be powered through a laptop or netbook USB port, as our prototypes are.  With no moving parts, these instruments are rugged and portable, fitting easily into a small backpack.

These spectrometers are ideal for real-time, on-site testing either in person or through an automated wireless network.  Both hardware and software can be customized for operation in stationary or roving sensing devices, and to accommodate a variety of desired spectra.

TECH ID: 2010-05

PATENT: US Application 13/100,495

TEAM:

David LaBrecque  http://physicsguy.org/ , David.Labrecque@umit.maine.edu

Kris A. Burton, Technology Commercialization.  207-581-1488 or kris.burton@maine.edu

DEVELOPMENT PLAN:  As of April 2012, further definition of the product opportunities within each segment is underway.

–  A limited number of spectrometers  manufactured by the UMaine Chemistry Club are available for purchase for educational use.  Curriculum may also be available.  Contact David LaBrecque.

–  A university startup is in the early stages of coupling this instrument with additional proprietary software for use in aquaculture and environmental remediation.  They are seeking commercial partners who have a need for detecting and monitoring low concentrations of fluorescent compounds in water.  For more information or to make suggestions contact Kris Burton.

– Companies interested in applying this technology to their own products contact Kris Burton.

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