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Sheena Sachdeva|Nov 28, 2023
NEW DELHI: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras researchers are developing a point-of-use, portable device to detect heavy metals in soil and water which will enable even untrained users to determine the soil and water quality quickly.
According to IIT Madras, the objective of the research is to develop an engineered device, which will be programmed to provide a non-technical read-out value of the soil quality index on a mobile phone-like application.
The IIT Madras stated that the research team has filed a provisional patent for the device. The research team comprised Sreeram K Kalpathy and Tiju Thomas, associate professors, department of metallurgical and materials engineering, IIT Madras, and Vidhya K V, project scientist, IIT Madras.
According to the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India data, the drinking water sources in over 36,000 rural habitations in India are affected by fluoride, arsenic, and heavy metal contamination. The presence of heavy metals also affects soil quality that affects global food security and human health.
The institute said that the existing techniques for detecting heavy metals in water, and soil are not user-friendly to laymen and farmers. A point-of-use, a portable device operable by laypersons will benefit them both socially and economically as per the institute.
As per the IIT Madras research team, the testing and validation of heavy metal detection is being done in the laboratory, with various soil and water samples collected locally and non-locally.
Highlighting the key impact of this technology, Sreeram K Kalpathy, associate professor, department of metallurgical and materials engineering, IIT Madras, said, “The extensive reliance of the Indian population on agriculture necessitates an immediate technological solution such as detecting and measuring heavy metal concentrations. This would give farmers the information they need for deciding which crops to cultivate and when to make interventions.”
Vidhya K V, project scientist, at IIT Madras, stated, “The scientific novelty of the present invention is that characteristic infrared transmission signals of metal ions adsorbed onto polymer thin films are utilized for detection and quantification. The advantages of the proposed technology over existing ones include minimal sample preparation efforts compared to other techniques such as ICP-OES (Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy), in which sample acidification, restriction in the use of specific solvents, etc. can be limiting factors.”
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