Development of a portable microfluidic system for field detection of Chemical Warfare Agents

Genetics and Genomics; Analytical Chemistry; Biochemistry (Chemistry)

Organophosphorus compounds (e.g., sarin) exhibit acute toxicity in humans as terrorist chemical warfare agents (CWA). We will develop a field-portable microfluidic system to detect CWA in the field.

Research Interests

Organophosphorus compounds exhibit acute toxicity in humans following ingestion, inhalation, or transdermal absorption through inhibition of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme, which subsequently hinders muscle relaxation. In the past, the potency and volatility of certain organophosphate derivatives, namely sarin, soman, and tabun, have been maliciously exploited by military entities and terrorists as chemical warfare agents. Other less toxic organophosphorus compounds, such as those used as pesticides, are still detrimental to human health, comprising one of the most common causes of poisoning worldwide. Detecting and differentiating these organophosphorus compounds in the field, whether that be in a military or environmental context, will allow for increased human safety. To address this need, we propose the development of a centrifugally-driven microfluidic device fabricated via the print-cut-laminate method developed in our lab.  An array of chromogenic organic dyes, each of which reacts differently with various organophosphate derivatives, will be stored on-board.  Following interaction between the dyes and the target analyte, an image of the disc will be captured using a flatbed scanner.  Testing will be done with CWA mimics on the detection of the CWAs spiked into whole blood and nasal swabs in collaboration with Dr. Holstege (Toxicology), Dr. Bazydlo (Clin Chem) and EHS.

Desired outcomes

Development of a field-portable system to allows us to generate adequate data to attract large funding from the Dept of Defense.