IP Profile: A Simple Method to Detect Water Impurities

Our optical dipstick is similar in use to a pH test strip, and we envision a device with high sensitivity and specificity that can detect and measure metal ions through multiple panels on a single dipstick.

Organization: Drexel University, US
Industry: Water
Inventors: Caroline Schauer, Ph.D.
Technology Contact: P. Caldwell, Drexel University, US

picture of test

Researchers at Drexel University have developed an inexpensive, rapid, color-based, "dipstick" test to determine the concentration of heavy metal ions in various water sources. This “dipstick” has individual panels of sensitive nano-scale films that can be tuned to change color in response to different aqueous heavy metal ions.

In addition to lead, chromium, mercury and copper, these thin film dipsticks could, in the future, detect heavy metal ions such as uranium. Thus, this detection technology is attractive not only to municipal field agents, maintenance persons and the home consumer for testing water quality, but also for federal agencies to detect the presence of radioactivity in water supplies.

The market for metal ion water testing for municipalities and businesses is well established, as these users test once per month. However, water testing at home is on the rise. In the New York Times article "A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet," the growing skepticism over the bottled water industry was investigated. As some believe bottled water is no different than tap water, consumers are moving away from purchased bottled water and returning to their filtered tap water. The optical dipstick technology would allow individuals to monitor their personal drinking water supply in five minutes.

At this year's TechConnect Summit in Houston, Drexel University is interested in corporate partnerships to further the development of this technology. "Specifically, we would like to test this "dipstick" in real-world settings," notes Philip Caldwell, Ph.D., Associate Director at the Drexel University Office of Technology Commercialization.

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