The idea is to chemically modify the surface of disposable electrodes so that nanoparticles impacting on them are immobilised. In this way electrodes can be distributed across environmental aquatic systems, left for a period of time during which their surfaces accumulate nanoparticles, recovered and then analysed either in the field or back in the lab.

The final analysis often simply involves the electrochemical oxidation of the accumulated material. Here, the potential required indicates the nature of the nanoparticle whilst the electrical charge required indicates the amount.

Feasibility study

Experiments with silver nanoparticles show most encouraging results, even under challenging conditions such as the complex matrix of oceanografic water samples. A patent application has been filed recently and the inventors are presently seeking to commercialise the work.

The researchers presented their work in the journal Nanotechnology 24 295502

Further reading

Model examines nanotoxicity in different ionic strength media (Mar 2013)
Antibacterial coatings: taking lessons from nature (Dec 2012)