SBIR Phase I: A Programmable Residual Solvent Analyzer based on Fourier Transform Molecular Rotational Resonance (FT-MRR) Spectroscopy

Period of Performance: 01/01/2015 - 06/30/2015


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

770 Harris Street, 104B
Charlottesville, VA 22903
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will develop a new analytical chemistry technique for rapid quantitation of chemicals in complex mixtures. The life science and chemical instrumentation market is $45 billion annually. The introduction of Quality by Design manufacturing processes has increased the need for accurate, high-speed, maintenance-free techniques for chemical analysis. The target application for this project is the detection of residual chemical solvents and genotoxic impurities in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The new technique to be developed uses molecular rotational resonance (MRR) spectroscopy to identify molecules based on their three dimensional geometry, resulting in a method with high chemical specificity. MRR is a high-resolution spectroscopy technique that makes it possible to directly analyze gas mixtures containing a large number of chemicals without the need for prior chemical separation using chromatography - a time-consuming step of current analysis methods that requires significant technical supervision. As a result, MRR-based chemical analysis instruments can provide rapid measurements of trace levels of chemicals in a manner that is compatible with real-time manufacturing processes requiring constant measurement for quality assurance. Chemical analysis instruments using MRR spectroscopy offer lower cost of ownership through higher measurement throughput, reduced consumables cost, and maintenance-free operation. The intellectual merit of this project is the introduction of a new technique for chemical analysis that solves major problems in the current set of tools available to the field. MRR spectroscopy has the highest chemical selectivity of any spectroscopy technique and can easily distinguish molecular isomers - a challenge for techniques that rely on mass to establish the chemical identity. Compared to other spectroscopy techniques, the method has higher spectral resolution that makes it possible to accurately analyze samples that are mixtures of many compounds (with several components at trace levels). Unlike mass spectrometry methods, the gas mixtures can be directly analyzed without the need for prior chemical separation using gas chromatography (GC). As a spectroscopy method, quantitative chemical analysis can be performed without the labor intensive and time-consuming process of running measurement standards. The instrument combines recent advances in high-power, solid-state millimeter wave (mm-wave) light sources, low-cost microwave synthesizer integrated circuits, and high-speed digital electronics to implement a time-domain, Fourier transform (FT) measurement approach. FT-MRR spectrometers reduce the measurement time by a factor of 1000 or more over existing rotational spectroscopy techniques, making the technique competitive with other high-sensitivity chemical analysis tools.