Self-Calibrating Chemical & Bio Sensor

Case ID: 007-000x-Nagel

With the rise of non-state actors posing a threat to various nations coupled with the massive amount of information available, the world has seen an increased risk of chemical warfare being used against civilians. Once reserved for the top chemists, the synthesis of chemical agents such as Sarin, VX, mustard gas, and arsine has become more available to the determined government or terrorists. Compared to the use of radioactive material (which is costly to manufacture and weaponize), recent attacks using chemical warfare agents have indicated a need for an accurate method for detection of chemical and biological agents. 

Various companies produce chemical sensors and biosensors detectors but these detectors have a limited shelf life before they need to be recalibrated. Given that the lethal dosages of most agents are in the parts per million range, accurate calibration of these sensors is vital. 

Inventors at The George Washington University have created a self-contained calibration unit which can be integrated into chemical weapon detectors. Using Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems (MEMS) structures, researchers trap and contain minute quantities of innocuous analogs of several chemical agents which can be quantitatively released to recalibrate sensors in the field. These safe analogs mimic the agent of interest and provide an accurate detector response without the risk of accidental exposure.

Fig. 1 - An example of a MEMS structure which can be heated to release a quantitative amount of agent analogs


  • Chemical weapon detector calibration 
  • Industrial chemical vapor detector calibration  


  • Does not require external calibration unit
  • Highly portable and long shelf-life

Patent Information:

Title App Type Country Patent No. File Date Issued Date Patent Status
Self Calibration Devices for Chemical and Bio Analytical Trace Detection Systems US Utility United States 8,051,697 10/16/2008 11/8/2011 Issued

For Information, Contact:

Michael Harpen
Licensing Manager
George Washington University


David Nagel
R McGill
Patrick Mills
Rekha Pai