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Challenge Seeks Atmospheric Benzene, Butadiene Monitors

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A new challenge on InnoCentive seeks a process or technology that can quickly detect benzene and 1,3 butadiene gases in low concentrations in the air. The challenge has an award of $30,000 and a deadline of 4 June 2012.

InnoCentive in Waltham, Massachusetts is a company the conducts open-innovation, crowd-sourcing competitions for corporate and organization sponsors. The sponsor of this challenge is identified only as a not-for-profit organization engaged in environmental monitoring to help prevent exposure of the public to environmental toxins.

The Environmental Protection Agency considers benzene a known human carcinogen based on evidence found in numerous occupational studies. EPA notes that significantly increased risks of leukemia, chiefly acute myelogenous leukemia, have been reported in benzene-exposed workers in the chemical industry, shoemaking, and oil refineries.

Research reported last month from the University of Colorado School of Public Health in Denver indicates the natural gas drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking may be causing the release of toxic chemicals in the air near drilling sites. The report of the research found several toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene.

EPA likewise rates 1,3-butadiene carcinogenic to humans by inhalation. The gas 1,3-butadiene is used commercially in the production of styrene-butadiene rubber, plastics, and thermoplastic resins. The major environmental source of 1,3-butadiene is the incomplete combustion of fuels from mobile sources, such as automobile exhaust, and tobacco smoke.

The sponsor is seeking a technology or method that makes possible portable field-based monitoring of atmospheric benzene and 1,3 butadiene at low parts-per-billion concentrations. Ideally the method would enable the recording of multiple atmospheric measurements per hour of these gases.

The sponsor plans to review all submissions. Participants in the challenge need to submit only a written proposal. Also, participants will not need to transfer exclusive intellectual property rights to the sponsor.  Instead, participants will be asked to grant to the sponsor a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions.

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