Development of a mobile gas chromatograph sensor system
Adulterated olive oil, food wrongly marked as organic or packaging made of contaminated recycled materials: Food fraud and scarcity of resources have long become major economic and social topics. While retailers and consumers find it hard or impossible to detect such fraudulent, inferior products, they can cause substantial harm to the health of individuals and to the finances of businesses.
Qualitative and quantitative analyses of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is advantageous when trying to identify fake food and inferior product quality. Currently, these tests are lab-based and thereforetime-consuming and cost-intensive and require specialist staff to operate equipment and evaluate data.
The PUMMEL research project aims to address these issues by developing sensitive and selective point-of-use analytics to detect VOCs tailored to individual cases of application. The project is a collaboration between the three Fraunhofer Institutes IPMS, IVV and IME.
Development of a mobile GC system using two lead applications
Analysis of volatile organic compounds plays an essential role in quality control. Most of the time, VOCs can be used for the non-destructive detection of product characteristics. Some VOCs are characteristic and unique for underlaying chemical and biological processes, others can be correlated to changes in product characteristics as in food fraud.
The PUMMEL research project therefore aims to develop fast, mobile and cost-effective solutions for VOC identification. The main focus of the project is the development of a mobile, easy-to-operate and robust gas chromatograph sensor system.
The development part will consist of three stages: The first stage involves the development of a chip-based, miniaturized GC component, which also contains a temperature-controlled multichannel GC column with an application-specific filling. The second stage aims to develop a system with flexible sample pretreatment and establish fast evaluation strategies, validation of the demonstrator as well as benchmarking. The focus here will be on user-friendliness to enable pointofuse analysis by people not specialized in analytics.
The new system for mobile gas analysis will be demonstrated using two industry-relevant lapplications: Ultimately, the PUMMEL system should provide reliable detection of food fraud, for example in olive oil, fish or organic food, as well as contaminants in recycled plastic materials at the point of use.
Joint interdisciplinary development
Fraunhofer Institutes IPMS, IVV and IME have joined forces and combined their core areas of expertise in chemical sensor systems, GC measurement methods and sensor development so that the mobile gas chromatograph sensor system can be successfully developed by an interdisciplinary team.
Our researchers at Fraunhofer IVV are contributing their specific expertise in sensor and device development as well as performance and analysis of measurements. The overall design will integrate the GC component provided by Fraunhofer IPMS and include the application-specific data recorded by Fraunhofer IME as the basis for simple chromatography analysis.
Development of the new business area for mobile gas analysis
The demand for mobile VOC analysis will increase rapidly in the next few years as new statutory provisions, such as the German Supply Chain Act (LkSG) or environmental standards are only feasible with mobile point-of-use measurement technology. The successful implementation of the PUMMEL project will help to develop this new business area. Using the envisaged technology it will be possible to provide the market with application-specific mobile VOC analytics in the near future. The aim of the involved institutes is to establish a long-term joint transfer and marketing strategy.