Project 7: Silicon Micro-reactor for Analysis of Trace VOCs in Air (Prof. Xiao-An Fu, ChE)

Healthcare Topic: Micro-reactors are transformative devices for next-generation healthcare analysis of trace volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in air and human exhaled breath [1-3]. We fabricate them on 4 inch silicon wafers using MEMS microfabrication techniques including photolithography and deep reactive ion etching (DRIE). The micropillars have high-aspect-ratios with dimensions of 50 µm in diameter and 250 µm in height. The surfaces of the micropillars are then coated with catalysts for oxidation of VOCs and reactants such as aminooxy compounds for the capture of carbonyl VOCs. After being sealed with a glass wafer, the wafer is diced to obtain many microreactors.  The captured VOCs by the microreactor are analyzed by GC-MS and HPLC.  Fig. 1 shows (a) a microreactor, (b) the microfluidic channel, and (c) the micropillar array. The student will learn to do microfabrication, CFD (computational fluid dynamics) simulation of fluid flow in the microeactors, and analysis of trace VOCs. The project is currently funded by the NSF. The results will be disseminated in the undergraduate research competition session at the AIChE annual meeting and in selected journal publications. An undergraduate student interested in Chemistry, ChE, ME or BE is an ideal REU applicant.



[1] X. A. Fu, M. Li, R. J. Knipp, M. H. Nantz, M. Bousamra, ”Noninvasive detection of lung cancer using exhaled breath”. Cancer Medicine 3, 174-181, 2014.

[2] M. Li, S. Biswas, M.H. Nantz, R.M. Higashi, X.A. Fu, “Preconcentration and analysis of trace volatile carbonyl compounds”   Analytical Chemistry, 2012, 84, pp.1288-1293, DOI: 10.1021/ac2021757

[3] X.A. Fu, M. Li, S. Biswas, M.H. Nantz, R.M. Higashi, “A novel microreactor approach for analysis of ketones and aldehydes in breath”  Analyst, 2011, 136, 4662-4666, DOI:  10.1039/C1AN15618G.