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Diffuse contaminants in the crosshairs

Collecting contaminants spread over large areas is a problem for which there is currently no ideal solution. CEA-Leti, a CEA Tech institute, recently developed a tool capable of rapidly collecting and analyzing surface contaminants of a biological or chemical nature.

Published on 2 March 2021

​Almost everyone has one of those adhesive lint rollers at home to keep their clothes free from pet hair and other fluff. The concept behind CEA-Leti's latest innovation is similar! As part of a French government R&D program to develop solutions to effectively fight CBRN-E (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive) terrorism, the institute came up with a way to improve the sampling of low-concentration, diffuse contamination spread over a large area. 

The 10-cm roller is covered with a patented specially-formulated water-soluble sticky gel. Particles, including bacteria, on the surface of interest are literally trapped inside the gel. The user then inserts the roller into a plastic tube that contains a few milliliters of an aqueous solution that dissolves the water-soluble gel and recovers the contaminants inside. If necessary, the resulting liquid is then re-concentrated and analyzed using conventional lab techniques.

In early testing, a roller designed to cover two to three square meters of surface was effective at collecting between 90% and 95% of the contaminants (particles, bacteria, etc.) on the surface. The roller was developed to meet the counter-CBRN-E needs of France's military and law enforcement. However, it could also prove useful in the agri-food industry, which has stringent health requirements. New research to test the solution on viruses is now underway. 

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