Singapore scientists have invented a handheld device for quick monitoring of drinking water quality
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), developed a portable device to detect levels of heavy metals in drinking water.
According to Phys.org, it involves an organic substance within the circulating human bloodstream, called a chelating agent. The device can detect and bind to heavy metal ions. It prevents the heavy metal ions binding from interacting with other molecules and enzymes in the body, and then marks it for excretion from the body.
Associate Professor Yong Ken-Tye and Professor Tjin Swee Chuan from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at NTU Singapore developed a device that generates test results without needing to bring samples back. This makes the device convenient for on-site water testing, according to Phys.org. The device may also be used for domestic use, such as water filtration systems.
Drinking water quality is mainly monitored in laboratory tests. Heavy metals cannot be identified by color, taste, or odor, unless it is presented at high levels. According to Phys.org, lab tests take at least a day to complete.
According to Phys.org, some portable devices can detect heavy metal contaminants quickly, but may require the additional steps. The sensor for these needs to be used within 30 minutes after exposed to air, because the effectiveness of the sensor can be affected by air, heat, or humidity.
"Other mobile alternatives include those that use metal electrodes such as mercury as a sensing probe, which could introduce heavy metal contaminants back into the environment, and test strips that change color when they come into contact with heavy metals but lead to results that rely on subjective readings of the strip," according to Phys.org.
The NTU invention requires only a few drops of a water sample into a disposable sensor cartridge to detect heavy metals at parts-per-billion precision.