SAS is Twenty-five

By Roberto Ligugnana Managing Director, International PBI

From Bioscience World, Autumn 2005

THE SURFACE AIR SYSTEM (SAS) MICROBIOLOGICAL AIR SAMPLER was invented by brothers, Roberto and Sandro Ligugnana, directors of Pool Bioanalysis Italiana Company (PBI) in Milan, Italy in 1979.

The SAS concept was to improve an existing non-portable impaction-style microbiological air sampler that required glass petri plates and connection of a main 110 Volts power supply and a heavy separate vacuum pump. The SAS provided a more efficient portable sampler using a standard disposable contact plate. With contact plates, the SAS provided a more direct impaction of the sampled air onto the agar surface for greater collection efficiency.

A cardboard pre-prototype of the SAS paved the way for the first SAS prototype made from PVS and the final prototype cast in anodized aluminum. In a few years, lead battery packs were upgraded to compact NiCad batteries and later to NiMH battery packs to provide a light enclosed power supply with seven-hour battery life.

The first microbiological test of SAS was performed in a small laboratory at PBI using a cosmetic sprayer to distribute an aerosol of Bacillus subtilis in the air. Validation tests were conducted at the microbiological laboratories of the international company, Farmitalia. In 1980, the first lot of 25 SAS units was produced in the Monza factory of PBI. The SAS has been used by cosmonauts and astronauts in the international space stations for the past ten years.

Since its inception twenty-five years ago, more than twenty different SAS models have been produced to serve the pharmaceutical, food, clinical and industrial sectors worldwide.


Brothers, Sandro (left) and
Roberto Ligugnana – Inventors of SAS Air Sampler

Roberto Ligugnana and grandson, Andrea, at PBI anniversary ribbon cutting ceremony

Cosmonaut with early SAS model on the space station


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