Jul 31, 2023

​EPA Awards $1.3M in Research Funding to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to Develop Nanosensors to Detect Pesticides and Mitigate Their Harmful Impacts

WASHINGTON (July 31, 2023) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced over $1.3 million in funding to a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in Madison, Wisconsin, to develop nanosensor technology that can detect, monitor, and degrade commonly used pesticides found in water that can harm human health.

"Nanotechnology advances are creating a new future for environmental monitoring," said Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator for EPA's Office of Research and Development. "The cutting-edge nanosensor technology that is being developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will help detect pesticides in water at extremely low levels and mitigate the harmful impacts of these pesticides."

Environmental pollutants such as pesticides can adversely affect human health. Simple and reliable sensors to detect pesticides in water sources can help reduce human exposure. The unique properties of nanomaterials have enabled advances in sensor design, such as portability and rapid signal response times, and provided more cost-effective, efficient, and selective detection and monitoring methods.

Using funding from this grant, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison will develop an integrated, portable, sensor-controlled water treatment technology that itself generates the chemicals needed for treatment. The researchers will distribute and deploy the treatment technology across rural communities in Alabama that rely on private and/or community wells for drinking water that have been impacted by neonicotinoids, a commonly used type of pesticide.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Integrated Portable Raman and Electrochemical NanoSystem, or I-PRENS, will be used for rapid onsite detection and degradation of neonicotinoid pesticides in drinking water supplies. The team will develop a small-scale I-PRENS prototype for deployment in Alabama's Black Belt region for long-term monitoring and remediation of neonicotinoid-impacted drinking water supplies. The Black Belt of Central Alabama, known for the region's rich, dark topsoil, faces many factors that make traditional wastewater treatment challenging, including its rural landscape and heavy clay soils. Results from the research are expected to help low income, underrepresented, rural communities in Alabama.