BRIC ID.12 2016

Design and development of a sensory system for the measurement of volatile compounds and identification of microorganisms of occupational interest.

Financed by: INAIL
Period: June 2017 – June 2019

24 months
€ 293.000
On going


Organic air contaminants (both indoor and outdoor) have been studied for a long time because of their toxic and climate-altering features; among the volatile compounds (VOCs) some develop short-term toxicity, but many of them are toxic to medium-long term (carcinogenicity and mutagenicity), such as mono-aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, styrene, etc.), and hydrocarbons polycyclic aromatics (PAH), which are particularly harmful also because often associated with ultra-fine powders. Both in Italy and Europe there is a wide range of guidelines related to the levels of exposure of workers which indicates in addition to the concentration limits on various scales temporal, even procedures and devices designed to mitigate exposure to these compounds as well as methods to be followed to carry out environmental measurements. It was also demonstrated that numerous VOCs are produced by the metabolism of fungi and bacteria (MVOCs: microbial volatile organic compounds). These chemicals can be detected in the environment before visible traces of growth microbial occurs.
Real-time monitoring of air quality, especially in environments indoor, allows to obtain a spatial and temporal distribution of pollutants both chemical and biological, a fundamental condition for constructing forecasting model of risk. Currently, despite the advances in the sensor for environmental monitoring (solid particles, gas and volatile substances), tools with low costs, portability and ease of use are not still available in order to guarantee a proper indoor monitoring in selected workplaces, that is a necessary condition for limiting risks in real time and supporting the decision by security managers.


This project proposes the development of compact, modular and low-cost sensory systems for real-time analysis of chemical pollutants that can be optimized for several workplaces. Such devices will be composed of subsystems that can be assembled according to the requirements: VOCs sensors, solid sample analyzers, gas and dust samplers, pre-concentration systems for VOCS, electronics interfaces and communication systems, data processing and software. Data transfer will be based on wireless mode. Low consumption electronic devices will be preferred in order to guarantee the portability. About the data management, mobile devices such as tablets and smart-phones, will be used.

The possibility of installing compact sensors systems on autonomous vehicles, e.g., mini-robots or drones, for the inspection of high-risk areas, such as post-fire scenarios or industrial environments as a result of leaks of contaminants will be taken in consideration.


The project actions will be devoted to implement a sensor device based on:

  • A smart sensors station able to monitor inreal time solid pollutants and volatiles dangerous to workers’ health.
  • compactness, portability and low cost;
  • possibility to house these systems on autonomous driving vehicles, e.g., robots or drones, for the monitoring of high-risk environments, following emergencies, where human accessibility must be limited (post-fire, pollutant leaks highly toxic, etc.);
  • data transfer in real time through wireless communication.
  • Graphical interface for displaying maps of distribution of pollutants measured by sensors on mobile devices such as tablets and smarthphone with automatic alerting procedures, if necessary;
  • possibility of pre-concentration based on purge-and-trap technology for improve the detection threshold of compounds of particular interest.


  • Department of Electronic Engineering, University of Tor Vergata;
  • Department of Sciences, University of Rome 3;
  • Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research, National Research Council;
  • DIMEILA Chemical Agent Risk Laboratory – INAIL
Antonella Macagnano

Antonella Macagnano

Scientific Responsible


Working Group

Angelo Cecinato

Emiliano Zampetti


Alessandro Capocecera


Joshua Avossa


Catia Balducci


Corrado Di Natale


Roberto Paolesse


Fabrizio De Cesare