Two Sandia microChemLab technologies soon to be checking for toxins in the nation's water supplies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Two technologies developed at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia National Laboratories are expected to soon be checking for toxins and harmful bacteria in the nation's water supplies. Both are based on the microChemLab.

The microChemLab, officially called microChemLab, is a hand-held "chemistry laboratory." The liquid prototype was designed and built at Sandia/California, while the microChemLab that takes measurements in the gas phase was developed at Sandia/New Mexico.

Complete with the microChemLab, electronics, and sample collector, both devices weigh about 25 pounds and fit into a box the size of a small suitcase. The only external parts of the two sensor technologies are water collectors. The units are completely portable.

"Our goal is to place these sensors within utility water systems and use them to quickly determine if the water contains harmful bacteria and toxins," says Wayne Einfeld, who heads the Sensor Development Focus Area within Sandia's Water Initiative (www.sandia.gov/water). "This on-site monitoring approach would enhance current utility monitoring systems that require water samples to be sent to laboratories for analysis, which sometimes takes days for results."

The United States has more than 300,000 public supply water wells, 55,000 utilities, 120,000 transient systems at rest stops or campgrounds, and tens of millions of hydrants. Up until now, real-time, remote water quality monitoring for toxins has been very limited.

The liquid microChemLab is currently being tested at the Contra Costa (Calif.) Water District, says Jay West, California principal investigator. Specifically, the team is testing to determine the steps necessary to identify toxins in drinking water, as well as expanding its capabilities as an autonomous monitor. The device is presently collecting and analyzing a water sample every 30 minutes and reporting results via a real-time data link to resear

Contact: Chris Burroughs
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories

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