Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015CT291B

Real-time in situ monitoring nutrient fate and hypoxia occurrence in natural water sources

Institute: Connecticut
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $21,343 Total Non-Federal Funds: $50,038

Principal Investigators: Baikun Li, Yu Lei

Abstract: Real-time sensing contaminants (especially nutrient and inorganic/organic compounds) in natural environment is the priority of assessing and managing water quality in the State of Connecticut and Long Island Sound (LIS). Before any effective action is executed for nutrient reduction and hypoxia alleviation, a whole set profile of physiochemical parameters (e.g. dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, and nutrients) should be obtained at the appropriate spatial and temporal resolutions. Traditional monitoring tools (e.g. hand-held electrodes, probes, and meters) can only measure single data point on each sampling site. To overcome the problems of existing macro-electrodes and micro-electrodes, the PIs have developed a novel monitoring technology, all-in-one microelectrode chip (MEC) by integrating multiple types of microelectrodes (MEs) on a single silicon chip, which can achieve a simultaneous measurement of multiple parameters at different depths of water bodies. The project aims at real-time in situ monitoring nutrient fate (nitrogen and phosphorus) and hypoxia occurrence in natural water sources using the new generation MEC technology. The proposed research will be based on the successful development of MEC and its accurate measurement of diverse substances in water solution. There will be two tasks in this project. Task 1 will be the lab-scale MEC tests in a flow chamber to characterize four profiles (DO, pH, nitrogen, and phosphorous) and examine the applicability of MECs. Two variables (organic contaminant and nutrients) critical for nutrient loadings and hypoxia occurrence will be tested at high/low concentrations. Task 2 will be the field MEC tests in two typical water bodies (the Swan Lake and the Fenton River) at two seasons (summer and fall). Water quality, nutrient loadings, and hypoxia occurrence will be correlated. Model simulation will be conducted to predict the fate of nutrient along the length and depth of water/sediment and predict hypoxia occurrence. There will be at least two outputs from this project. First, the new generation MEC technology developed will be capable of real-time in situ profiling multiple parameters at multiple depths of water resources, which will enhance the coastal monitoring of hypoxia. Second, the integration of MEC profiles with models will elucidate the dynamic migration fates of nutrients, and contribute to building healthy aquatic ecosystems in the State of Connecticut and the LIS regions. Moreover, the PIs will lay out a clear transformative plan based on the outcomes of the MEC lab-scale and field tests, and collaborate with the UnitedWater Inc. to transfer and commercialize the real time in situ sensing tools for rapid monitoring and characterizing natural water resources. This project holds tremendous training interests and presents new visions of science and engineering for undergraduate and graduate students. Real time in situ monitoring of water quality will be integrated into the lectures and teaching labs. High school students and teachers from underrepresented groups will visit the PIs’ labs for water quality monitoring. The PIs have and will be committed to motivating students to the LIS protection activities.