IIT Madras develops user friendly heavy metal detector for soil and water

IIT Madras Develops User-Friendly Heavy Metal Detector for Soil and Water

Researchers from the renowned Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) are taking innovative strides towards mitigating environmental contamination through the development of a portable, point-of-use tool that can detect heavy metals in both soil and water with user-friendly features even for those without scientific training.

A significant problem in protecting public health and preserving environmental integrity is the inaccessibility of immediate, efficient, and user-friendly tools for detecting contamination.

The current high-end techniques such as ‘Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emission Spectroscopy’ (ICP-OES) require sophisticated labs and lengthy procedures, hardly compatible with the needs of laypersons or farmers.

In a breakthrough move, the IIT Madras team has applied for a provisional patent for ‘Polymeric thin film-based heavy transition metal detector,’ offering hope for a tool that can be operated by anyone wanting to measure soil and water quality.

India’s rural habitations, estimated at over 36,000 by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, face significant threats from water sources contaminated by heavy metals and other pollutants such as fluoride and arsenic.

The increase in soil salinity due to heavy metal presence has also been negatively impacting global food security through decreasing crop yield.

“The extensive reliance of the Indian population on agriculture necessitates an immediate technological solution such as detecting and measuring heavy metal concentrations,” said Dr Sreeram K Kalpathy, Associate Professor, Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, IIT Madras.

Along with the directors of the project, Dr Sreeram K Kalpathy and Dr Tiju Thomas, Vidhya KV, a project scientist at IIT Madras is also part of the innovative team aiming to lead the way in agricultural technology.

Their goal: to equip farmers with vital information about soil and water quality, facilitating them to make informed decisions on crop cultivation and necessary interventions in the context of heavy metals contamination.

Dr Tiju Thomas explained that their technology works by adsorbing metal ions onto thin polymer films present in the water sample or soil wash water, with the results identified using a calibrated database by measuring infrared spectroscopic signals.

Project Scientist Vidhya KV also elaborated on the advantages of the proposed technology, highlighting its scientific novelty and minimal sample preparation efforts in comparison with traditional techniques such as ICP-OES.

Substantial steps are being conducted to take these innovative methods out of the lab and into the field. Water samples from various temple tanks in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, have been analysed in collaboration with the Rural Technology Action Group at IIT Madras.

Further, this team of researchers is conducting validation tests with various local and non-local soil and water samples.

With such cutting-edge development, IIT Madras is striving towards a sustainable future where the environment and agriculture can coexist without compromising on human health.

Courtesy : IndiaToday

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