Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020MO256B

Advanced Materials for Low-Cost Electronic Nitrate Sensors to Prevent Harmful Algal Blooms in Missouri Water Resources

Institute: Missouri
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $22,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $44,000

Principal Investigators: Dr. Matthias Young

Abstract: Each year over $100 million worth of nitrogen fertilizer is lost to water runoff in Missouri and collects in Missouri water resources, causing harmful algal blooms that damage the environment and lead to economic losses to waterfront communities. In order to mitigate these harmful effects, we need to better understand how nitrogen from fertilizer is lost and transported in the environment. Conventional methods for detecting nitrogen in water or soil samples rely on slow and costly laboratory measurements, most commonly liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) methods,1–3 which cannot provide a clear picture of how nitrogen moves through the environment. We need to develop low-cost and high accuracy nitrogen sensor technologies for distributed use. The current state-of-the-art for such a sensor is limited by poor electrical conductivity and limited thickness control of the nitrate-sensing material, and provides only ~1 mg/L nitrate sensitivity, versus ~0.1 pg/L sensitivity for LC-MS.4 In the proposed project, we aim to establish new nitrate-sensing materials based on electrically-conducting polymer thin films which provide higher selectivity and sensitivity to nitrate. The materials science advances generated from the proposed work promise to enable distributed sensors for nitrate detection, ultimately enabling real-time data monitoring of nitrate in the environment in line with efforts such as EARTHDATA from NASA5 and the various real-time Data and Tools resources available from USGS.6