Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Mercury in Water, Fish Detected with Nanotechnology: Inexpensive, super-sensitive device detects even low levels of toxic metals in water, fish

The new system is comprised of a commercial strip of glass covered with a film of “hairy” nanoparticles. A kind of “nano-velcro,” it can be dipped into water to trap the pollutant and render the film electrically conductive.
The new system is comprised of a commercial strip of glass covered with a film of “hairy” nanoparticles. A kind of “nano-velcro,” it can be dipped into water to trap the pollutant and render the film electrically conductive.

Abstract:
When mercury is dumped into rivers and lakes, the toxic heavy metal can end up in the fish we eat and the water we drink. To help protect consumers from the diseases and conditions associated with mercury, researchers at Northwestern University in collaboration with colleagues at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, have developed a nanoparticle system that is sensitive enough to detect even the smallest levels of heavy metals in our water and fish.

Mercury in Water, Fish Detected with Nanotechnology: Inexpensive, super-sensitive device detects even low levels of toxic metals in water, fish

Evanston, IL | Posted on September 13th, 2012

The research was published September 9 in the journal Nature Materials.

"The system currently being used to test for mercury and its very toxic derivative, methyl mercury, is a time-intensive process that costs millions of dollars and can only detect quantities at already toxic levels," said Bartosz Grzybowski, lead author of the study. "Ours can detect very small amounts, over million times smaller than the state-of-the-art current methods. This is important because if you drink polluted water with low levels of mercury every day, it could add up and possibly lead to diseases later on. With this system consumers would one day have the ability to test their home tap water for toxic metals."

Grzybowski is the Kenneth Burgess Professor of Physical Chemistry and Chemical Systems Engineering in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The new system is comprised of a commercial strip of glass covered with a film of "hairy" nanoparticles, a kind of a "nano-velcro," that can be dipped into water. When a metal cation --- a positively charged entity, such as a methyl mercury --- gets in between two hairs, the hairs close up, trapping the pollutant and rendering the film electrically conductive.

A voltage-measuring device reveals the result; the more ions there are trapped in the "nano-velcro," the more electricity it will conduct. To calculate the number of trapped particles, all one needs to do is measure the voltage across the nanostructure film. By varying the length of the nano-hairs covering the individual particles in the film, the scientists can target a particular kind of pollutant that is captured selectively. With longer "hairs," the films trap methyl mercury, shorter ones are selective to cadmium. Other metals also can be selected with appropriate molecular modifications.

The nanoparticle films cost somewhere between $1 to $10 to make, and the device to measure the currents costs a few hundred dollars, Grzybowski said. The analysis can be done in the field so the results are immediately available.

Researchers were particularly interested in detecting mercury because its most common form, methyl mercury, accumulates as one goes up the food chain, reaching its highest levels in large predatory fish such as tuna and swordfish. In the United States, France and Canada, public health authorities advise pregnant women to limit fish consumption because mercury can compromise nervous system development in the fetus.

Researchers used this system to detect levels of mercury in water from Lake Michigan, near Chicago, among other samples. Despite the high level of industry in the region, the mercury levels were extremely low.

"The goal was to compare our measurements to FDA measurements done using conventional methods," said Francesco Stellacci of EPFL, co-corresponding author of the study. "Our results fell within an acceptable range."

The researchers also tested a mosquito fish from the Florida Everglades, which is not high on the food chain and thus does not accumulate high levels of mercury in its tissues. The U.S. Geological Survey reported near-identical results after analyzing the same sample.

"This technology provides an inexpensive and practical alternative to the existing cumbersome techniques that are being utilized today," said Jiwon Kim, graduate student in Grzybowski's lab in the department of chemistry at Northwestern. "I went to Lake Michigan with our sensor and a hand-held electrometer and took measurements on-site in less than a minute. This direct measurement technique is a dream come true for monitoring toxic substances."

This work was supported by the Non-equilibrium Energy Research Center, which is an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under grant number DE-SC0000989.

Authors of this study include: Jiwon Kim, Baudilio Tejerina, Thomas M. Hermans, Hideyuki Nakanishi, Alexander Z. Patashinski and Bartosz A. Grzybowski from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University; Eun Seon Cho and Francesco Stellacci, Institute of Materials, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne EPFL Switzerland and Hao Jiang and Sharon C. Glotzer, Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Michigan.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Erin White

847-491-4888

Copyright © Northwestern University

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 News Press

News and information

Traffic jam in empty space: New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum January 22nd, 2017

A big nano boost for solar cells: Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies January 21st, 2017

Explaining how 2-D materials break at the atomic level January 20th, 2017

New research helps to meet the challenges of nanotechnology: Research helps to make the most of nanoscale catalytic effects for nanotechnology January 20th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Traffic jam in empty space: New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum January 22nd, 2017

A toolkit for transformable materials: How to design materials with reprogrammable shape and function January 20th, 2017

'5-D protein fingerprinting' could give insights into Alzheimer's, Parkinson's January 19th, 2017

Strength of hair inspires new materials for body armor January 18th, 2017

Discoveries

Traffic jam in empty space: New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum January 22nd, 2017

A big nano boost for solar cells: Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies January 21st, 2017

Explaining how 2-D materials break at the atomic level January 20th, 2017

New research helps to meet the challenges of nanotechnology: Research helps to make the most of nanoscale catalytic effects for nanotechnology January 20th, 2017

Announcements

Traffic jam in empty space: New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum January 22nd, 2017

A big nano boost for solar cells: Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies January 21st, 2017

A toolkit for transformable materials: How to design materials with reprogrammable shape and function January 20th, 2017

New research helps to meet the challenges of nanotechnology: Research helps to make the most of nanoscale catalytic effects for nanotechnology January 20th, 2017

Environment

Investigating the impact of natural and manmade nanomaterials on living things: Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology develops tools to assess current and future risk January 9th, 2017

PCATDES Starts Field Testing of Photocatalytic Reactors in South East Asia December 28th, 2016

Advance in intense pulsed light sintering opens door to improved electronics manufacturing December 23rd, 2016

Carbon dots dash toward 'green' recycling role: Rice scientists, colleagues use doped graphene quantum dots to reduce carbon dioxide to fuel December 18th, 2016

Water

Scientists have discovered a new state of matter for water January 2nd, 2017

PCATDES Starts Field Testing of Photocatalytic Reactors in South East Asia December 28th, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Water, water -- the two types of liquid water: Understanding water's behavior could help with Alzheimer's research November 11th, 2016

Research partnerships

A big nano boost for solar cells: Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies January 21st, 2017

Chemists Cook up New Nanomaterial and Imaging Method: Nanomaterials can store all kinds of things, including energy, drugs and other cargo January 19th, 2017

Chemistry on the edge: Experiments at Berkeley Lab confirm that structural defects at the periphery are key in catalyst function January 13th, 2017

Recreating conditions inside stars with compact lasers: Scientists offer a new path to creating the extreme conditions found in stars, using ultra-short laser pulses irradiating nanowires January 12th, 2017

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