Wireless Networked Sensors in Water for Heavy Metal Detection

Period of Performance: 06/08/2015 - 03/07/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Nanosonic, Inc.
158 Wheatland Drive Array
Pembroke, VA 24136
Firm POC
Principal Investigator


Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, chromium, mercury, and cadmium have attracted a great deal of attention around the world for their impact on human health. To allow efficient monitoring of RCRA heavy metal levels for water in power generation facilities, a precise, mobile and highly sensitive measuring instrument is required. Traditional systems are usually costly and bulky, so not suitable for widescale deployment for the mapping of heavy metals. NanoSonics proposed wireless nanomembrane-based ChemFET heavy metal sensors instead offer significantly improved chemical sensitivity and selectivity, combined with the wireless communication of data from multiple small and disposable sensors to fixed or mobile receivers. The nanomembrane structure combined with NanoSonics patented self-assembly processing approach allow a unique way to tune sensitivity and selectivity. Multiple sensor devices can be configured in a small, lightweight and low cost array to analyze multiple sensor targets simultaneously. They can be used as in-situ sensors attachable for permanent installation or portable inspection in a field. During this DOE program, NanoSonic would develop these wireless sensors for use in the analysis of heavy metal chemistry for power generation facilities, and more broadly for commercial use. NanoSonic would first fabricate prototype nanomembrane chemFET sensor elements, then design and synthesize chemical-specific ionophores for the selective detection of targeted heavy metal elements. The performance of prototype sensor devices would then be demonstrated. NanoSonic would work with a local environmental monitoring company to explore field use requirements. Multiple small-size and low-cost sensors could be distributed over an area to allow 1) spatial mapping of heavy metal targets, as well as 2) real-time updating of heavy metal concentration map as local conditions may change over time. The proposed nanomembrane heavy metal analysis tool would be a viable commercial product for NanoSonic.