Environmental Protection

Advanced MicroLabs Gets Federal Support to Create Drinking Water Sensor

Researchers need a tool to monitor perchlorate in drinking water in real time.

The National Institutes of Health Superfund Research Program (NIH) recently awarded $845,000 to Advanced MicroLabs, LLC to develop the hardware for an online perchlorate sensor.

Perchlorate is a small inorganic ion that impairs thyroid function when consumed. Its appearance in groundwater sources is primarily a result of improper storage of rocket fuels and explosives.

Many remediation efforts are under way throughout the United States to restore groundwater for use as drinking water but these efforts lack a means of monitoring perchlorate in real time, resulting in over-engineered facilities to safeguard against plant failure. An online sensor would make these efforts safer and more cost-effective. Jess Brown, Ph.D., P.E., a process design engineer with Carollo Engineers, commented: “No other analytical technologies exist that meet our on-site perchlorate monitoring needs, and therefore we are quite enthusiastic about the prospects of the Advanced MicroLabs device.”

“This award is the cornerstone of our commercial thrust, providing product development resources and validating our scientific and commercial strategies,” said Charles S. Henry, Ph.D., CEO. The Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase II award will allow Advanced MicroLabs to develop prototype commercial units. Detection limits below 1 part per billion (ppb) have already been demonstrated, well below existing and pending state regulations that range between 4 and15 ppb.

Advanced MicroLabs uses a microchip Capillary Electrophoresis with patent-pending electrochemical detection technology that originated at Colorado State University plus patent pending sample delivery technology for real-time analysis. “Our sensitivity typically matches, if not outperforms, ion chromatography, and our technique is much faster, easier, and less expensive” noted Henry. “Plus, we can separate and detect almost any ion in water, allowing us to address many additional online measurement needs. Our next set of initiatives is to improve the water re-use and overall economics in power generating plants.”

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