Laboratory and field evaluation of a SAW microsensor array for measuring perchloroethylene in breath

William A. Groves, Chandran Achutan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article describes the laboratory and field performance evaluation of a small prototype instrument employing an array of six polymer-coated surface acoustic wave (SAW) sensors and a thermal desorption preconcentration unit for rapid analysis of perchloroethylene in breath. Laboratory calibrations were performed using breath samples spiked with perchloroethylene to prepare calibration standards spanning a concentration range of 0.1-10 ppm. A sample volume of 25O mL was preconcentrated on 40 mg of Tenax® GR at a flow rate of 100 mL/min, followed by a dry air purge and thermal desorption at a temperature of 200° C. The resulting pulse of vapor was passed over the sensor array at a flow rate of 20 mL/min and sensor responses were recorded and displayed using a laptop computer. The total time per analysis was 4.5 min. SAW sensor responses were linear, and the instrument's limit of detection was estimated to be 50 ppb based on the criterion that four of the six sensors show a detectable response. Field performance was evaluated at a commercial dry-cleaning operation by comparing prototype instrument results for breath samples with those of a portable gas Chromatograph (NIOSH 3704). Four breath samples were collected from a single subject over the course of the workday and analyzed using the portable gas chromatograph (GC) and SAW instruments. An additional seven spiked breath samples were prepared and analyzed so that a broader range of perchloroethylene concentrations could be examined. Linear regression analysis showed excellent agreement between prototype instrument and portable GC breath sample results with a correlation coefficient of 0.99 and a slope of 1.04. The average error for the prototype instrument over a perchloroethylene breath concentration range of 0.9-7.2 ppm was 2.6% relative to the portable GC. These results demonstrate the field capabilities of SAW microsensor arrays for rapid analysis of organic vapors in breath.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-788
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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