Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Measuring mercury levels: Nano-velcro detects water-borne toxic metals

Coal plants like this one in West Chicago release mercury into the atmosphere which can end up in the water supply. This plant, the Crawford Generating Station, is among the last coal-fired plants to shut down in the city, and this move could help bring the already low mercury content in nearby Lake Michigan down even further. Image credit: Steve Geer, Chicago Image Gate
Coal plants like this one in West Chicago release mercury into the atmosphere which can end up in the water supply. This plant, the Crawford Generating Station, is among the last coal-fired plants to shut down in the city, and this move could help bring the already low mercury content in nearby Lake Michigan down even further.

Image credit: Steve Geer, Chicago Image Gate

Abstract:
A strip of glass covered in hairy nanoparticles can cheaply and conveniently measure mercury, which attacks the nervous system, and other toxic metals in fluids.

Measuring mercury levels: Nano-velcro detects water-borne toxic metals

Ann Arbor, MI | Posted on September 10th, 2012

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), Northwestern University and the University of Michigan found that their new method can measure methyl mercury, the most common form of mercury pollution, at unprecedentedly small concentrations. The system, which could test for metal toxins in drinking water and fish, is reported in the current edition of Nature Materials.

Methyl mercury dumped in lakes and rivers accumulates in fish, reaching its highest levels in large, predatory fish such as tuna and swordfish. Young children and pregnant women are advised to avoid eating these fish because mercury can affect the developing brain and nervous system. While metals in drinking water are measured periodically, these measurements say little about migratory fish, including tuna, which may pass through more polluted areas.

"The problem is that current monitoring techniques are too expensive and complex," said researcher Francesco Stellacci, the Constellium Chair holder at EPFL. "With a conventional method, you have to send samples to the laboratory, and the analysis equipment costs several million dollars."

Using the device invented by the Swiss-American team, measuring the mercury levels in water or dissolved fish meat is as simple as dipping a strip of coated glass into the fluid. Metals and metallic molecules, such as methyl mercury, typically become positively charged ions in water. When these ions drift between the hairy nanoparticles, the hairs close up, trapping the pollutant. Passing a current over the strip of glass reveals how many ions are caught in the "nano-velcro." Each ion allows the strip to conduct more electricity.

U-M researchers Hao Jiang and Sharon Glotzer, the Churchill Professor of Chemical Engineering, performed computer simulations that investigated how the nano-velcro traps pollutants. They showed that the hairy nanoparticles are choosey about which ions they capture, confirming that the strips can give reliable measures of specific toxins as demonstrated by the experimental findings of the Swiss group.

"By making detection of pollutants and toxins cheap and easy to do, more testing at the source will lead to safer foods on the dinner table and in kids' lunchboxes," Glotzer said.

The scientists targeted particular pollutants by varying the length of the nano-hairs. This approach is especially successful for methyl mercury, and the device can measure it with record-breaking accuracy, detecting concentrations as low as 600 methyl mercury ions per cubic centimeter of water. Fortunately, that level of precision won't break the bank. The researchers estimate that the coated glass strips could cost less than 10 dollars each, while the measurement device will cost only a few hundred dollars. It could gauge the concentration of metals onsite and within minutes.

The researchers tested their method in Lake Michigan, near Chicago.

"The goal was to compare our measurements to FDA measurements done using conventional methods," Stellacci said.

Despite the industrial activity in the region, mercury levels were extremely low, in agreement with the FDA's analysis. The team also tested a mosquito fish from the Everglades.

"We measured tissue that had been dissolved in acid. The goal was to see if we could detect even very minuscule quantities," said Bartosz Grzybowski, the K. Burgess Professor of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Systems Engineering at Northwestern University, noting the species is too low on the food chain to accumulate high levels of mercury.

The United States Geological Survey reported near-identical results after analyzing the same sample.

"With this technology, it will be possible to conduct tests on a much larger scale in the field, or even in fish before they are put on the market," said researcher Hyewon Kim, MIT student visiting EPFL.

Funding for this research came from ENI, via the ENI-MIT Alliance; the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency via a grant to MIT and U-M; and the U.S. Department of Energy via a Nonequilibrium Energy Research Center grant to Northwestern and the U-M.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Katherine McAlpine
Phone: (734) 763-4386

Copyright © University of Michigan

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Sharon Glotzer:

Francesco Stellacci:

Bartosz Grzybowski:

Related News Press

News and information

NREL Announces New Center Directors to lead R&D, Analysis Efforts September 30th, 2014

Yale University and Leica Microsystems Partner to Establish Microscopy Center of Excellence: Yale Welcomes Scientists to Participate in Core Facility Opening and Super- Resolution Workshops October 20 Through 31, 2014 September 30th, 2014

Speed at its limits September 30th, 2014

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

NREL Announces New Center Directors to lead R&D, Analysis Efforts September 30th, 2014

A Heartbeat Away? Hybrid "Patch" Could Replace Transplants: TAU researcher harnesses gold nanoparticles to engineer novel biocompatible cardiac patch September 30th, 2014

How things coil: Researchers discover that simulation technology designed for Hollywood can be used as a predictive tool for understanding fundamental engineering problems September 29th, 2014

UT Arlington researchers develop transparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection for medical safety and homeland security September 29th, 2014

Sensors

Graphene and Amaranthus Superparamagnets: Breakthrough nanoparticles discovery of Indian researcher September 23rd, 2014

IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting To Celebrate 60th Anniversary as The Leading Technical Conference for Advanced Semiconductor Devices September 18th, 2014

Biosensors Get a Boost from Graphene Partnership: $5 Million Investment Supports Dozens of Jobs and Development of 300mm Fabrication Process and Wafer Transfer Facility September 18th, 2014

The Pocket Project will develop a low-cost and accurate point-of-care test to diagnose Tuberculosis: ICN2 holds a follow-up meeting of the Project on September 18th - 19th September 18th, 2014

Discoveries

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

Announcements

Park Systems Announces Outsourced Analytical Services Including AFM Surface Imaging, Data Analysis and Interpretation September 30th, 2014

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

Military

UT Arlington researchers develop transparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection for medical safety and homeland security September 29th, 2014

'Pixel' engineered electronics have growth potential: Rice, Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt, Penn scientists lead creation of atom-scale semiconducting composites September 29th, 2014

Nanotechnology leads to better, cheaper LEDs for phones and lighting September 24th, 2014

Engineered proteins stick like glue — even in water: New adhesives based on mussel proteins could be useful for naval or medical applications September 22nd, 2014

Environment

On the Road to Artificial Photosynthesis: Berkeley Lab Study Reveals Key Catalytic Factors in Carbon Dioxide Reduction September 25th, 2014

World's smallest reference material is big plus for nanotechnology September 25th, 2014

Quick Method Found for Synthesis of Organic Compounds with Less Pollution September 25th, 2014

Iranian Nano Scientists Create Flame-Resistant Polymers September 13th, 2014

Water

Malvern Instruments & Aurora Water conference presentation illustrates value and cost-saving potential of on-line zeta potential in water treatment: 2014 RMSAWWA/RMWEA Joint Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA September 7th – 10th September 3rd, 2014

New Nanosorbent Helps Elimination of Colorants from Textile Wastewater August 25th, 2014

Eco-friendly 'pre-fab nanoparticles' could revolutionize nano manufacturing: UMass Amherst team invents a way to create versatile, water-soluble nano-modules August 13th, 2014

PerkinElmer to Display Innovative Detection and Informatics Offerings at ACS National Meeting & Exposition Detection, Data Visualization and Analytics for Chemistry Professionals August 8th, 2014

Research partnerships

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

'Pixel' engineered electronics have growth potential: Rice, Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt, Penn scientists lead creation of atom-scale semiconducting composites September 29th, 2014

Teijin Aramid’s carbon nanotube fibers awarded with Paul Schlack prize: New generation super fibers bring wave of innovations to fiber market September 25th, 2014

Smallest-possible diamonds form ultra-thin nanothread September 25th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE