US researchers seek partners for water quality sensor

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/8/11 7:12:37

Researchers at the University of Michigan (UM) are seeking partners to bring their new development, a new electronic lead sensor, into industrial production.

The lead sensor, potentially costing around 20 US dollars, could watch for water quality at home and in cities, alerting residents and officials to the presence of lead.

Work of the lead sensor relies on two pairs of electrodes. The positive electrode and its neutral neighbor set up an electron-poor environment, while the negative electrode and its neutral neighbor create an electron-rich environment.

The negative electrode offers electrons to positive and already oxidized ions, capturing most metals, while lead is attracted to the positive side of the electrode set -- it is the only contaminant metal that readily loses more electrons and oxidizes further.

The sensor has been tested in a variety of environments: simulated tap water and water from an actual tap, spiked with metals or not. As lead builds up on the positive electrode, it eventually reaches the neutral electrode, closing the circuit and generating a voltage, or an alarm.

It's a similar story on the negative electrode, picking up high concentrations of iron, zinc and copper, which can also become health concerns. The sensor can differentiate between a lead problem and a problem with one of these other metals.

"There could be an app that would monitor all the taps, and it could just send you an email message when it detected an event," said Mark Burns, a UM chemical engineering professor.

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