New device detects dangerous waters

14 June 2018 09:11

The device will be able to detect mercury particles in water

The device will be able to detect mercury particles in water

A new, low-cost portable device to help protect communities in Colombia from contaminated water has been developed by British engineers.

Colombia is the third most mercury-contaminated country in the world, partially due to illegal metal-mining.

The new device will be able to detect mercury particles in water, protecting vulnerable communities in the South American nation.

Four key variables

The device, developed by academics at the University of Bath and Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, provides a clear-cut way of testing water systems - before uploading the findings onto a web-based device which allows them to be viewed all over the world.

It measures four key physiochemical variables in the country's water including temperature, pH levels, dissolved oxygen and conductivity, as well as directly monitoring the levels of different metals in the water.

Mercury is a dangerous pollutant and can be found in many rivers, including parts of the Amazon.

Speaking about the new devices, project leader Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo from the University of Bath said: "Due to the lack of financial resources and technology, communities like Santa Sofia in the Amazon have no means of checking if the water they are surrounded by is safe to use.

"This multi-sensing device can have a massive impact to these communities, allowing them to easily check if the water they are using is safe to do so."

A big change

The researchers expect that by being able to map out areas of water affected by mercury, they'll be able to help prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

Large amounts of mercury in the water result in foetal-malformations and brain disorders - conditions which are increasing every year.

Dr Alba Graciela Avila Bernal, from the Universidad de los Andes, added: "Humans have contaminated many regions in the world and it is a particular shame we have contaminated the Amazon.

"By combining our expertise in participatory design and humanitarian engineering with the sensing expertise at the University of Bath, we have provided this community with a reliable and affordable way of testing the water they so heavily depend upon."

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