I-Corps: Point-of-use microfluidics-based electrochemical platform for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) detection in source water

Project: Research project

Project Details


The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is the development of a point-of-use, microfluidics-based electrochemical platform for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) detection in source water. Human exposure to PFAS is a public health concern. The commercialization of a point-of-use electrochemical PFAS detection device will significantly improve water quality by providing an on-site, cost-effective portable technology to detect emerging contaminants. It offers a unique replaceable cartridge system of capture molecules that integrates seamlessly with the sensor module to test for a catalog of contaminants. The point-of-use device automates sample analysis and displays lab-quality results in an easily understood format, eliminating the need for bulky equipment, tedious sample preparation, and trained laboratory technicians. This simple display solves major issues of PFAS tests currently available in the market. Additionally, the device will be rapid, reliable, and affordable, making it ideal for use in low-resource or underserved areas with limited access to advanced equipment. The availability of a modular, rapid device will allow researchers to quickly optimize and rapidly respond. As the sensor is tailorable to a variety of potential contaminants, threats, and diseases, it may have multiple applications.This I-Corps project is based on the development of a rapid, sensitive, and selective, field-deployable, microfluidics-based, point-of-use electrochemical sensor platform. The platform integrates non-planar interdigitated electrodes with a microfluidic channel packed with an engineered nanoporous material called metal-organic framework. This platform has significant benefits over the current generation of electrochemical biosensors. Electrode nanoporosity mitigates non-specific adsorption and overcomes diffusion limitations leading to rapid signal acquisition. The microelectrode design results in a high signal-to-noise ratio leading to increased sensitivity. Sensitivity and selectivity can be decoupled using the shear force (controlled using the flow-rate) as a tuning parameter. The device’s current detection limit of 0.5 ng/L for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is much lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency's health advisory levels of 70 ng/L or 70 ppt in drinking water. Finally, the developed sensor's modular nature allows the sensor to be decoupled from the capture molecule interface. The sensor can be easily adapted by packing different capture molecule-specific materials to detect many different emerging contaminants in drinking water like GenX compounds and heavy metals.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date1/15/214/30/23


  • National Science Foundation: $50,000.00


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