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Air Quality Invention Wins R & D Magazine Award

Air Quality Invention Wins R & D Magazine Award

(July 17, 1999)

A transportable laser-based device that measures air quality, invented at the University of California, Riverside, has won technology's "Oscar" as one of the top 100 most significant new products of this year.

R & D Magazine, based in Illinois, has named the commercial version of The Model 3800 Aerosol Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer, invented by Kimberly Prather, professor of Chemistry at UCR and Joseph E. Mayer, UCR instrument builder, among the R & D 100 fo
r this year. The device is now manufactured and marketed by TSI, Inc. of St. Paul, Minn.

The device allows scientists to capture and immediately analyze the size and content of the aerosol particles in the air we breathe, whether they be salts, ice, smoke, exhaust, dust or other matter. Aerosol particles play an enormous role in our daily lives, affecting visibility and weather conditions and sometimes even endangering our health. Prather and Mayer's invention could be an important tool in the fight to end air pollution and global warming.

This technology is also relevant in other industries, for diagnosing "sick" building syndrome and monitoring the air in clean rooms for manufacturing semi-conductors and other computer components, which can be ruined by the smallest speck of dust.

The Chicago Tribune has called the R & D Magazine awards "The Oscars of Invention." Since 1963, winners of this award have become part of modern life, including Polacolor film, the flashcube, the digital wristwatch, antilock brakes, the automated teller machine, the liquid crystal display, the halogen lamp, the fax machine, and the taxol anti-cancer drug.

Prather and Mayer will travel to Chicago to accept the award Sept. 27 at the Museum of Science and Industry.

Prather earned her Ph.D. at UC Davis and worked in the lab of Nobel laureate Yuan T. Lee before coming to UCR in 1992 with an idea for an improbable-sounding invention that would analyze air quality immediately, rather than waiting days or weeks for lab r
esults that allowed chemicals in the samples to react with each other, or degrade over time.

Prather and Mayer's prototypes were tested in a variety of real-world situations, in California, Georgia, the Grand Canyon, and the Indian Ocean. They have been shown to produce results comparable to those obtained with conventional measurement instruments in experiments conducted with researchers from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Prather has won several awards for her research innovations, including:
* 1994 American Society for Mass Spectrometry Award
* 1994 National Science Foundation Young Investigator
* 1997 National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award
* 1998 GAeF Smoluchowski Award
* 1999 Kenneth T. Whitby Award
* 1999 Most Innovative New Product, UC San Diego CONNECT
* 2000 ACS Analytical Chemistry Arthur F. Findeis Award

For further investigation:

Kim Prather's fieldwork Website:
The Website for TSI, Inc.:
R & D Magazine Website:

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