Bureau of Reclamation awards $50,000 for five arsenic sensor solutions selected through prize competition

Recipients were awarded for submitting ideas to improve arsenic measurement in the environment and drinking water

Media Contact: Peter Soeth, 303-445-3615

For Release: March 02, 2018

WASHINGTON - Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that five private sector and citizen solvers shared a prize competition purse of $50,000 for their submissions of concepts to improve arsenic measurement technologies in water.

"Current analytical methods are suitable for ensuring regulatory compliance, but there remains a need for rapid, low-cost monitoring of arsenic," Commissioner Burman said. "These selected ideas are a positive step forward to better understand and manage water quality, potentially opening up more usable supplies for the West and the country. We look forward to seeing the application of these proposed solutions."

Stage 1 of the arsenic sensor prize competition sought concepts for rapidly, accurately, and cost-effectively measuring arsenic in water through improved sensor technologies. Responses were judged, and winners each received a cash prize of $10,000. To advance these concepts, Reclamation will be hosting stage 2 of the competition, which seeks working prototypes of innovative arsenic sensing technologies.

The award recipients from stage 1 of the arsenic sensor prize competition are:

Natalie Cookson, President of Quantitative Biosciences, Inc.
Cookson proposed the creation of a biosensor platform that uses synthetic microbial sensor strains that fluoresce in response to induction to continuously monitor water for the presence of arsenic. She says, "It will be small and cheap enough to deploy many units to enable mapping of real-time arsenic concentrations."

Tom Ferguson, Imagine H20 and FREDsense Technologies
Ferguson's concept involves the use of bacteria to electrochemically detect and speciate arsenic. He says, "The system is highly portable, requires no training or sample preparation, and can be easily implemented across a variety of infrastructures for rapid detection of arsenic."

Elain Fu and Chih-hung Chang
Fu and Chang's idea includes the use of a novel arsenic test design that is based on a porous substrate in which capillary flow enables instrument-free pumping of a water sample into the device. The design incorporates a porous metal organic framework composite; specific to arsenic binding. "It functions to collect arsenic from the sample and then concentrates the chemical within the substrate for high-sensitivity detection."

Pradeep Kurup
Kurup's proposed solution is a low-cost, easy-to-use portable handheld arsenic sensor that is capable of detecting arsenic in water at concentrations as low as 1 part per billion. The PHASOR employs an accurate electrochemical technique that allows for arsenic detection in the presence of other metals. Kurup says, "The handheld electrochemical device will be lightweight, affordable, and the total measurement time will be less than thirty seconds."

Jason Robosky, FLIR Detection, Inc.
Robosky's concept introduces an enzyme-based handheld analyzer for detecting a range of arsenic levels in water. He says, "By specifically inhibiting enzymatic reactions the produce a color change, arsenic levels can be calibrated and quantified spectrophotometrically." The proposed system consists of a consumable cartridge containing stabilized enzymes and substrates as well as a handheld electronic device to measure, analyze, and display detected arsenic concentration in water samples.

To learn more about prize challenges in the Federal government, visit www.challenge.gov. To learn more about Reclamation's Water Prize Challenge Center and past, current and planned competitions, visit www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at https://www.usbr.gov and follow us on Twitter @USBR.