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Indian scientists develop portable sensor to ease heavy metal detection in water

Image credit: Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences

The Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS) has developed a compact solid-state sensor to detect the heavy metal ions in water. It is a portable device that can help onsite detection in remote areas.

Heavy metal ions such as lead, mercury, and cadmium pose severe potential threats to living beings as they can easily be accumulated in the body and cannot be detoxified by any chemical or biological processes. The health hazards associated with heavy metal ions in water demands the development of efficient and portable sensors for rapid onsite detection of these ions. There is an urge to develop visual sensors, which can effectively detect heavy metal ions rapidly (within seconds) under ambient conditions.

According to a press statement released by the Ministry of Science and Technology, a team of researchers led by Dr Pralay K. Santra at Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences have developed a compact solid-state sensor to detect the heavy metal ions, for example, lead ions (Pb2+) down to 0.4 parts per billion (ppb) for efficient onsite detection.

The sensor film was prepared by forming a composite between manganese doped zinc sulfide quantum dots and reduced graphene oxide on a glass substrate. These particular quantum dots are water-soluble and have high photoluminescence (~ 30 %) quantum yield, making them suitable for luminescence-based sensing.

The released added that these quantum dots can be excited with handheld UV light of 254 nm, thus making it a portable device even to remote areas. If a drop of water containing heavy metal ions such as mercury, lead, cadmium and so on, are added to the composite film, the emission of the film quenches within seconds.

This study demonstrates the easy detection of heavy metal ions in water; the team is developing strategies to improve the selectivity of the detection.

CeNS is an autonomous research institute under the government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST). DST provides core support to the centre in the form of a grant-in-aid for conducting basic and applied research in nano and soft matter sciences.

As OpenGov reported earlier, a research team from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-Bombay) is developing new methods for quantum chemistry and implement them efficient and free computer software.

With help from the DST, the study will help the development of a new class of radio-sensitizers, which makes tumour cells more sensitive to radiation therapy and thereby protects normal cells. Computational modelling can greatly reduce the development costs of new radio-sensitizers, both in terms of money and time.

Indian scientists are at the forefront of the new theory development for quantum chemistry, the release claimed, although, the progress in translating these theories into practically useable computer software is somewhat limited.

For the future, the team plans to develop new quantum chemistry methods, benchmark efficient computational protocols to study radiation damage to genetic material and pursue science for the betterment of society and humankind.

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