Sensing Solution for Airborne Carbon Nanotube Exposure in Workplaces Based on Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy

R. Bieri, J. Borek-Donten, B. Celikkol Zijlstra, S. Cattaneo, T. Bürgi
Stat Peel,

Keywords: carbon nanotube, airborne, occupational exposure, sensor


Today’s advances in man-made nanomaterials pose new and unprecedented health risks, arising especially from airborne, inhalable fiber-shaped nanomaterials, like carbon nanotubes (CNTs). In vivo studies indicate that inhalation of CNTs can cause adverse pulmonary effects including inflammation, granulomas and pulmonary fibrosis [1, 2]. As a result, the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) in USA recommends an exposure limit of 1µg/m3 of CNTs as a respirable mass 8-hour time-weighted average concentration [3]. However, detecting this amount is extremely challenging with the current sensing solutions. Here, we would like to present a wearable, cost-effective badge sensor with an air filtration system [4,5]. The sensor is capable of collecting airborne carbon nanotubes from the surrounding atmosphere on a disposable membrane filter, which acts as a SERS substrate. The badge system is integrated with a bench-top sized optical reader for fast and automated inspection of collected samples. Our system enables detection of sub-nanogram quantities of collected CNTs and, by utilizing the advantages of Raman spectroscopy, is a solution able to uniquely distinguish carbon nanotubes from background aerosols present in air. [1] Nat Nanotechnol. 4(11): 747–751 (2009) [2] Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 289: 698-708 (2005) [3] NIOSH CIB 65: Carbon Nanotubes and Nanofibers [4] Patent pending [5] Swiss Technology and Innovation Project 17623