Project Details


An award is made to Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in Newark for the Development of a Laser Based Benchtop Radiocarbon Analyzer, a system to be used for the detection of very small quantities of Carbon 14. Broader impacts of the instrument development project are varied and span many areas: drug metabolism analysis, carbon dating, and environmental monitoring are particularly important. In the pharmaceutical area, microdosing methodology where non-therapeutic trace doses of labeled drugs are used to safely obtain pharmacokinetic information on new drugs will benefit from the developed instrument which will lower costs, speed up drug trials and make new drugs safer. For environmental monitoring, because the analyzer can accommodate a continuous flow of carbon dioxide, continuous air or soil gas monitoring heretofore impossible will become feasible and allow more robust monitoring of fossil fuel carbon in the biosphere. Important to the instrument development project is outreach to a broad user community and to potential commercial partners. Using methodology learned in the NSF I-CORPS program this bridging development project will expedite commercialization of the instrument via private sector manufacturing, sales and service. The highly diverse student body at Rutgers in Newark will be exposed to the project which may influence their career decisions; and qualified students will participate in development projects. Technology transfer success will benefit the wider scientific enterprise by illustrating the value of fundamental physical research in solving societal problems. Government and private sector funding will be sought for technology transfer and broad scale commercialization.The use of Radiocarbon or Carbon 14 (C-14) as a tracer is very widely accepted in many areas of science. Because it is a 'natural' label of living systems it is often used for carbon dating of once living samples and also for tracing carbon in the atmosphere/biosphere system. Labeling with 14C is especially important in drug development and environmental studies as well as in basic research associated with metabolism. Traditional instrument systems to quantify C-14 still depend on the detection of a nuclear decay event, a highly inefficient process which requires the use of either high levels of radioactivity, large samples, long counting times, or some combination of each. Greatly enhanced sensitivity, now only possible with large centralized particle accelerator technology, is necessary for low dose and small sample tracer studies, for long-term metabolic studies, for drug dissemination studies and for environmental monitoring. The laser-based instrument to be developed in this project can provide the required high sensitivity, with the simplicity of radiation counting, in a benchtop analyzer capable of being used by a laboratory technician. Such high sensitivity will reduce the costs associated with drug metabolism studies and allow human tracer testing with little radiation exposure. Engineering, algorithm and calibration simplification will improve the precision and throughput allowing the widespread use and commercialization of the technology.
Effective start/end date4/1/153/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))

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