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Development of a nanoparticle assisted high throughput prototype system for chemical speciation measurements of trace elements diffnal

PI: Gideon Henderson

Department: Earth Sciences

Polluted water, soil and air are responsible for the diseases that kill at least nine million people worldwide and cost trillions of dollars every year, according to recent research. Contamination with trace elements such as arsenic, mercury, chromium, lead and cadmium is at the top of the list of environmental pollutants of increasing ecological and global public health concern. The mobility and toxicity of trace elements depend especially on their chemical forms (or species) rather than their total content. For example, while trivalent chromium (chromite) can be considered a dietary supplement, hexavalent chromium (chromate) is toxic and potentially carcinogenic. Also, while organic mercury is much more toxic than metallic mercury, inorganic arsenic is more poisonous than organic arsenic.

Because different elemental species exhibit very different physiochemical properties and varying toxicities, it is becoming vital and increasingly demanded by many regulatory, health and safety organisations to measure and monitor these individual toxic elemental species in the environment. However, the current lack of any robust, quick and routine speciation technique limits the ability to monitor and measure environmental pollution. This lack of analytical ability also poses a challenge to many other branches of analytical chemistry (forensics, manufacturing, food production, medical screening tests, etc.). Prof Henderson’s group has recently patented a novel device that has the potential to provide rapid analysis of speciation of a wide variety of chemical species. This combines membrane technology with design of novel sortable active nanoparticles with special chemical characteristics.

Having demonstrated this patented technique in the laboratory for a limited class of speciation measurements, this proposal seeks to develop a prototype instrument for a widespread and commercial use across a broad range of areas.

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