Electrochemical Sensor for Detection of Phosphorus in Stormwater

Kevin Hicks, “Electrochemical Sensor for Detection of Phosphorus in Stormwater”
Mentor: Marcia Silva, Global Water Center

The process of trying to stop fertilizers, that farms use in their field, from ending up in our water ways and bodies of water is a very difficult task that has plagued our society over the past few decades. Whenever there is a storm fertilizer that was in the field usually gets washed away into a body of water and because the main element of most industrial fertilizers is phosphorus, the process of eutrophication occurs. Eutrophication is not good for that ecosystem because the extra nutrients in the water encourage plant growth and when plants grow at an accelerated rate, they kill the marine life due to lack of oxygen. Stormwater usually has many different elements inside of it besides Phosphorus and it is hard to detect those elements. As of right now the only means of knowing how much of each element is in each sample of stormwater is to bring it back to a lab and use a spectrometer. Transporting samples back to the lab and analyzing them is very effective, but takes time and spectrometers are not cheap. So, while it’s a very fine way of detecting the elements present in stormwater it is not efficient and can’t be done in the field. Our goal of this project is to use our electrochemical sensor to see if it can detect Phosphorus in storm water so that we do not have to bring samples back to the lab for analysis. The experiment has two main stages that we test our sensor with, the first stage is testing the sensor ability to detect phosphate in stock solutions. Next, we will collect environmental stormwater samples and perform the same test as we did with the stock solutions. From our preliminary results the sensor works for detecting phosphates in the stock solutions.

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