New Invention May Revolutionize Analytical Chemistry

capillary microextraction of volatiles

A new invention, developed by an FIU researcher, has the potential to revolutionize the field of analytical chemistry. The invention, which measures just 2 centimeters long and 2 millimeters in diameter, is a sorbent tube that could bring analytical chemistry to the masses. The device is simple yet highly sensitive, and is designed to sample volatile chemicals in the air, food, your home and even your own body.

The device is called the CMV, short for capillary microextraction of volatiles. The CMV is able to sample air by drawing just a small amount of air through it. After the device is analyzed at a laboratory using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be identified, including those associated with the presence of bacteria, mold, carcinogens, and much more.

The CMV could potentially be used in medical diagnostics as well, offering an inexpensive, non-invasive method for disease-detection by identifying the presence of VOCs in lungs.

The FIU researcher who invented the device, Jose Almirall, is a chemist and the director of the FIU International Forensic Research Institute. Almirall and an alumnus by the name of Digno Caballero, have formed IAD-x, LLC, to further develop the device and expand research. The goal is to put analytic chemistry within reach for the average person.

This invention is a revolutionary product that — given its portability, low cost, and proven sensitivity —  could impact a wide range of industries, including: medicine, law enforcement, shipping and insurance. The device will also to help foster economic growth and employment opportunity in the process.

The IAD-x team was selected by the National Science Foundation to participate in the Innovation Corps Teams Program (I-Corps) this past summer; the program connects NSF-funded researchers with businesses and entrepreneurs in an effort to promote innovation and technology transfer. The device was actually developed to detect explosives, but additional applications become apparent through the customer discovery process.

“I recommend any faculty member wanting to explore commercialization of science and technology to consider going through the I-Corps program,” Almirall said. “The I-Corps team of a student or post-doc, a business mentor and the PI is provided with the tools necessary to begin to evaluate whether a scientific discovery can be turned into a viable business.”

The device is still in the early stages of development, but the researchers are actively exploring market opportunities for a variety of industry applications. Once the development is complete, the CMV will be a welcomed addition to numerous industries.