Skip to content

Research Core 1

Detection of Contaminants in Geoenvironments via Nano-enabled Sensors

The focus of this core will on nano-enabled sensors for high precision and robust detection of contaminants (including, but not limited to, heavy metals, microplastics, pharmaceuticals, and pathogens) in different geoenvironments, including soil, as well as surface and groundwaters. The low-cost, in situ nano-enabled sensors developed here will result in comprehensive and customized detection of contaminants that can capture variations in concentration in time and space that are overlooked by conventional approaches, leading to more effective and cost-efficient treatment, intervention, and mitigation.

Detection of Inorganic Contaminants in Soil, Surface and Groundwaters

The goal of this project is to create nano-enabled sensors for detecting trace levels (μM to nM) of aqueous inorganic contaminants (including toxic heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, chromium, uranium, lead, and cadmium, as well as nitrates and phosphates) in surface and groundwater, as well as inorganic compounds in soil, with particular focus on agriculturally relevant nutrients (nitrate, phosphate) and phyto-accumulating toxins (arsenic, cadmium, lead). Such contaminants are currently assessed by collecting samples for expensive and time-consuming analysis and are thus limited to a small number of locations, and are conducted quarterly, at best. This spatiotemporal sampling granularity is inadequate to characterize the environmental behavior and risks of these chemicals. We will use multiple nano-enabled sensing approaches, including electrochemical and capacitive sensing (Lu, Ghosh) and 2D-material-based field effect transistors (Baykara). Nguyen will bring nanomaterial synthesis expertise while theoretical calculations by Strubbe will help calibrate sensor behavior. Berhe, Harmon, and O’Day will provide the necessary expertise in environmental sample collection and conventional analyses, including chemical characterization, in addition to complementary, spectroscopic analysis of inorganic contaminants.

Detection of Organic Contaminants in Soil, Surface Waters and Groundwaters

This project will pursue the aim of building nano-enabled sensors for monitoring organic contaminants and pathogens (including pesticides, perfluoroalkyl substances, pharmaceuticals, organic metals such as methylmercury, and contaminants and pathogens related to human and animal waste such as antibiotics, caffeine, nicotine, viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths) using Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (Bond, Ye), electrochemical detection (Ye), and micro- to nanoscale optical resonators (Bond). Beutel will provide the necessary expertise in environmental cycling and laboratory analysis of organic pollutants, environmental sample collection, and data analysis. Analysis of organic contaminants using analytical approaches (Pett-Ridge) and theoretical calculations (Strubbe) will complement these efforts.

Graduate Student Members: Jorge Arteaga and Shelby Defeo (Cohort 1), Sam Erickson, Anna Jurusik, and Maria Perez Mendoza (Cohort 2)