Mechanical engineer Junhong Chen and a team at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (UWM), have developed what you might think of as a ‚Äúcanary in the coal mine‚ÄĚ for lead in water.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), they designed a sensor with a graphene-based nanomaterial that can immediately detect lead and other heavy metals. The new platform technology can be used for one-time testing of lead in tap water through a handheld device.
The small sensors also can be integrated into water meters and purifiers, with the goal of continuous monitoring to prevent exposure to lead that could be introduced between the water treatment plant and the home.
The team is now working with manufacturers, including A.O. Smith Corporation, Badger Meter Inc., Baker Manufacturing Company LLC and NanoAffix Science LLC, to put the sensors into use. In addition to real-time detection and continuous monitoring, this lead sensor system is a low cost way to mitigate lead contamination in water.
This research is supported by the NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC), specifically the Water Equipment and Policy I/UCRC at UWM, as well as the NSF Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research(PFI:AIR) programs, which help translate discoveries from academic labs into new products and services.