Safe chemical innovations
High Tech Industry

Crystalline: making hazardous substances visible in the workplace

In the Netherlands, thousands of people die every year as a result of being exposed to hazardous substances at work. We are developing methods and technologies to enable early detection and elimination of these silent killers in the workplace. Sensors are the latest development in this domain.

The current measurement methods for exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace are time-consuming and cumbersome. Systems measure in certain places, the sample goes to a lab for testing, and the results follow days later. This makes it impossible to identify relationships between the time and level of exposure to and the source of the hazardous substance.

Measuring more and in real time

The new sensor allows measurements to be recorded in real time. Immediate action can then be taken if necessary. The sensor simultaneously provides a comprehensive set of data that shows the hazardous substances in the workplace, the concentrations in which they occur, and where levels are potentially dangerous to human health. We have achieved this by combining expertise in working conditions, chemistry, big data, computational models, data communication and human behaviour.

The system basically consists of a cyclone separator that sucks up particles in situ and a spectrometer that operates at infrared wavelengths. A computer processes the data in real time and sends it to the cloud for further analysis, alerts or storage. We have built a dedicated data infrastructure for this. This makes it possible to also display the data in an app.

Flexible and versatile

This first prototype is designed to measure concentrations of carcinogenic crystalline silica, better known as silica dust. The ultimate aim is to create a flexible sensor that can detect a much wider range of hazardous substances in all kinds of sectors.

Our first prototype has been tested extensively on a building site. The current prototype is relatively large. In the foreseeable future, we expect to reduce it to a small wearable sensor that can easily be attached to workwear. The ability to constantly monitor risks and acute hazards in the workplace in real time will significantly contribute to occupational health and safety.


Are you an entrepreneur and do you want to use the sensor? Or do you want to help develop the sensor further? Let us know and Joe Trimboli.

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