U.S. Army Corp of Engineers awards grant to develop a portable system for oil detection from the environment

Han -kimTwo Texas A&M Engineering faculty members -- Dr. Arum Han (pictured on the left), associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Yong-Joe Kim, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering -- have received a grant from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to develop a portable system for on-site real-time low-concentration oil detection from the environment.

In the event of an oil spill in the ocean, it is important to the environment that it is cleaned up as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

While large oil slicks on the surface of the ocean can be easily monitored through various optical imaging techniques and can be blocked from entering a coastal area through physical and chemical means, small, dispersed oil cannot be easily detected.

This low-concentration dispersed oil is of great concern to the marine and coastal ecosystem (including wildlife and fisheries) and to public health, so detecting extremely small amounts of oil from the environment rapidly at a low cost has broad applications in environmental monitoring in the ocean and along the shoreline, as well as for oil leakage monitoring in water and soil.

This system being developed at Texas A&M will be enabled by combining acoustic wave based separation techniques with microfluidic technologies, allowing large amounts of liquid samples to be processed in a short period of time to concentrate low-concentration oil in liquid samples to an easily detectable level. If deployed in the form of portable detection units or as wireless sensor networks covering a large area, such a system can enable for the first time large-scale scientific studies into oil dispersion and transport, link such studies to short-term and long-term health and eco effect studies, as well as be used for continuous water quality and oil leakage monitoring in inland aquatic systems close to where the U.S. army operates with the potential for civilian use as well.

Han, director of the NanoBio Systems Lab and an expert in microfluidic lab-on-a-chip technologies, joined the bio­ area of the electrical and computer engineering de­partment in August 2005. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Seoul Na­tional University, Seoul, Ko­rea in 1997 and his master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati, OH in 2000. In August 2005, he received his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA. Han’s research interests lie in the devel­opment of microfluidic and lab-on-a-chip systems for applications in cellular and molecular analysis. Particular focus areas are in developing high-throughput screening systems and portable detection systems for applications in developmental neurobiology, cancer metastasis, infectious diseases and microbe-mediated bioenergy solutions.