"It is therefore desirable to provide an aerosol collection and storage system which can efficiently collect and properly store a large plurality of particulate matter samples for analysis at a later time wherein storage and recovery of the sample particulate matter from the collection medium is easily achieved and the recovery process does not destroy or degrade the sample particles. It is also desirable to collect and store pertinent information regarding each individual sample such that such information can be accessed by a user when each sample is finally analyzed at a future time and place.
"Accordingly, the present invention is directed to a bioforensic aerosol collection and storage system which overcomes one or more of the problems set forth above."
In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The present invention overcomes many of the shortcomings and limitations of the prior art devices and teaches the construction and operation of several embodiments of a reel-to-reel bioforensic aerosol collection and storage system used to capture and store particulate matter wherein the collection mechanism uses electrostatic precipitation technology for collecting the particulate matter onto a tape mechanism which is stored for future analysis. Particles are captured onto a tape material coated with a water soluble material. The particles are collected onto a region of the tape for a defined period of time and then the tape is advanced out of the collection zone. As the tape advances, several different methods can be used to manipulate the tape such that the collected particulate matter is stored with a buffer fluid to preserve and maintain the viability of the collected particles for future extraction and analysis. The collection material or particulate matter intended to be collected by the various embodiments of the present device includes, but is not limited to, biological warfare agents, naturally occurring biological material, chemical warfare agents, nuclear/radiological materials, and other airborne aerosol and pathogen agents.
"In one aspect of the present invention, the present aerosol sampler and storage system draws air into an inlet via a fan or other blower system. The air flow with the particulate matter contained therein is drawn across a collection zone which includes a system for electrically charging the aerosol particles as they flow through the collection zone. In one embodiment, the aerosol particles entering the system are exposed to gas ions generated by a corona discharge from an electrode as they flow through an electrostatic field. The aerosol particles become electrically charged and then migrate to an oppositely charged collection surface. In one embodiment, the collection surface may be a grounded plate which is covered by an advanceable tape. The tape is advanced from a feed reel, across the collection surface, and into an area wherein the tape with the collected particles thereon is acted upon to preserve and store the collected particles for future analysis.
"In one embodiment of the present invention, once the tape is moved out of the collection zone, a mechanism is used to move the tape downwardly in between a pair of plate members which include heat sealing means and cutting means for forming sealed pouches. Once the tape has been drawn down in between the pair of plate members, the plate members are moved into contact with each other thereby folding the tape lengthwise upon itself and two sides of the tape are pressed and heat-sealed together to form a pouch having only one side remaining open. A dispensing mechanism is then used to inject a small portion of a buffer fluid into the pouch prior to heat-sealing the final side of the pouch. At the same time, an upper portion of the overlapped tape is likewise heat-sealed at a location above the location where the final side of the pouch is heat-sealed. Once the tape has been heat-sealed at both of the above-referenced locations, the tape is cut or severed in between such locations thereby allowing a totally sealed pouch to fall into a temperature controlled cold storage container located therebelow. Once the sealed pouch has been cut from the tape, the remaining portion of the tape which has also been heat-sealed at a location above where the sealed pouch was severed from the tape now continues to advance onto a waste or take-up reel. Heat-sealing the folded over tape at a location above the location where the sealed pouch is finally sealed and cut allows the tape to remain continuous for further advancement so that the next sample can be collected in the collection area. This collection process can be repeated at any predetermined time intervals and any plurality of sample pouches can be formed, heat-sealed, and severed for collection in a storage container for evaluation and analysis at a later time. In this regard, the present system includes a user programmable interface for allowing a user to program a wide variety of different sampling times, frequencies and other parameters into the present system depending upon the particular application.
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