On-site detection allows for immediate characterization of soil and groundwater samples, lowering costs and increasing safety for workers.

About

Heavy metal contamination of soil and groundwater, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, has become a major concern as the severe toxicology risks for humans and other living species become apparent. Existing soil and subsurface characterization techniques, such as atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS) and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS), require expensive equipment and highly trained personal to carry out. Moreover, the instrumentation for these techniques is non-portable and samples have to be sent to a lab for time-consuming off-site analysis, limiting their usage for on-site detection. An inexpensive, efficient, and portable technique to detect and analyze heavy metal contamination on-site is needed.

Technology

UMass Lowell researchers have developed an in situ technique for on-site detection and analysis of soil and subsurface samples utilizing a hand-held cone penetrometer fitted with an electronic tongue (ET). The ET, which mimics the human gustatory system, is composed of electrodes that produce characteristic responses to metal ions and offers both qualitative and quantitative methods for detecting metal contaminates in soil or groundwater. The voltammetric sensor array on the ET targets the ion concentration while simultaneously identifying the specific metal ions present. 

Key Benefits

On-site detection allows for immediate characterization of soil and groundwater samples, lowering costs and increasing safety for workers.

Hand-held device is easy to use and portable.

Voltammetry approach allows for qualitative and quantitative analysis of heavy metal contaminates.

Applications

A tool for geotechnical and environmental on-site detection of trace concentrations of electro-active compounds, such as metal contaminates in soil and groundwater.

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