Sceptor and Sarnoff to Develop Handheld Biological Threat Detection Device

Sceptor Industries of Kansas City and Sarnoff Corporation of Princeton have announced a joint project to develop a portable handheld particle collection device for use by military or civilian response teams in the detection of airborne biological threats. The Sceptor Compact Electrostatic Concentrator (CEC), planned for release in mid-2005, will produce samples with 30X the concentration performance of today's devices, while measuring less than one-third their size and weighing under 10 pounds.

"Suppose we have an anthrax-type scare that has to be verified in the field,'' said Richard Jarman, CEO of Sceptor. ``Other collectors are too big and too heavy for rapid deployment, and require large power supplies.

"The CEC is the size of a thermos, weighs the same as a laptop computer, and only needs five watts to run. Troops in the field or civilian emergency personnel can hand-carry it into the potentially hazardous environment, collect the samples, and get out, without extra equipment or elaborate setup.''

The CEC will eventually be available in several sizes, including one as small as a human fist.

According to Chetna Bindra, Program Manager at Sarnoff, the CEC is the first electrostatic collector with such low power requirements.

"The CEC removes the particles from an air sample by using electrostatics to direct the particles into a liquid, creating a highly concentrated liquid sample,'' said Bindra. ``This approach eliminates the need for large volumes of consumable collection fluid, since the CEC can collect into microliter sample volumes.

"The small, concentrated samples are well adapted for testing by microfluidic means as well as by more conventional methods. This makes the CEC perfect for use with today's handheld assay equipment.''

Because it does not require significant quantities of consumable fluids, the CEC is also ideal for use in remote collect/detect systems and unmanned vehicles.

Sarnoff originally developed the electrostatic deposition technology behind the CEC for drug manufacturing and delivery systems. The particle collector application is based on a completely new generation of this technology.

Sceptor Industries will market the CEC as a complement to its current SpinCon(R) line of aerosol collectors. It expects the CEC's portability to open up new applications for collectors.

While the CEC is initially targeted at freestanding aerosol sample collection in sites suspected of being biologically contaminated, the company is also exploring integration of the product into other biological collect/detect or defense systems.