Micro-Pyrolizer for Rapid Bio-Identification

Technology Summary

Sandia has developed a micro-fabricated device for identifying different organisms by their unique chemical “fingerprint” based on fatty acid (lipid) content. Applications can include food composition testing (testing the purity of Extra Virgin Olive Oil), microbe analysis (e.g. Anthrax and virulent bacteria), high value/specialty crop verification (designer seeds, bio-fuels), and unknown substance testing.


Traditional methods for isolating fatty acids for are time-consuming and use large volumes of organic solvents. However, Sandia’s micro-pyrolizer quickly turns fatty acids into volatile esters for separation and measurement in a gas chromatograph (GC) or ion mobility spectrometer (IMS). The resulting pattern of relative amounts of fatty acids can identify particular species.
This technology has been shown to be effective in distinguishing bacteria at the gram-type, genera, and sometimes species levels. The chart above shows the fatty acid content of two bacteria measured by Sandia’s rapid-pryolysis technology.


  • Microfabricated device suitable for low cost mass production
  • Rapid, on-site identification of bio samples
  • Requires only tiny sample volumes
  • Integrates with lab-on-a-chip style micro-GC

Applications and Industries

  • Agribusiness: crop testing and verification
  • Bio-fuels: plants/algae lipid content
  • Homeland & national security: bio-agent identification
  • Medical: pathogen diagnosis
  • Food products: testing virgin vs. adulterated cooking oil

Intellectual Property

ID Number
Patent Number
Micropyrolyzer for chemical analysis of liquid and solid samples 6790.0 7,078,237 07/18/2006
Technology IDSD#6790Development StagePrototype - Sandia estimates this technology at a Technology Readiness Level 4. Key elements have been demonstrated in a laboratory environment.AvailabilityAvailable - Various licensing and partnering options are available. Please contact the Intellectual Property department to discuss. Published09/29/2011Last Updated02/05/2013