heavy metal detection sensors (low cost, small, highly sensitive and environmentally respectful)


The release and accumulation of heavy metals (lead, nickel, cadmium, mercury, etc.) by anthropogenic causes is a major problem due to environmental deterioration and deleterious toxic effects to the human beings. CSIC has developed a material for the low cost manufacturing of miniaturized electrochemical sensors for the rapid, sensitive and environmentally friendly detection of heavy metal ions in water. 

Oferta de Licencia de Patente y/o colaboración I+D+i

Sensors for the analysis of heavy metals based on carbon-bismuth electrodes

The invention includes the material, its preparation procedure and use for the fabrication of sensors for heavy metal detection. The material is a composite comprising a porous matrix of amorphous carbon hosting Bi nanoparticles and synthesised by a sol-gel approach, which can be used for the manufacturing of electrodes and their application as electrochemical sensors for monitoring heavy metal content in water.

Electrochemical detection of heavy metals in water

Currently, heavy metal detection is done by atomic absorption spectroscopy or mass spectrometry at centralized laboratories, requiring expensive and voluminous equipment and well-trained personnel. 

An alternative is the use of electrochemical approaches based on the use of Hg electrodes with the ability to pre-concentrate heavy metals by forming amalgams and to further detect them by anodic stripping voltammetry. However, these electrodes are hardly use nowadays due to the mercury high toxicity.

The developed material includes Bi nanoparticles, which are biocompatible, supported on a carbon matrix, and is an excellent alternative to the use of Hg. It opens the door to the manufacturing of compact, robust, low cost and highly sensitive electrochemical devices that can be deployed for the detection of heavy metals in water.

Foto SEM del material con nanopartículas de Bismuto.

SEM picture of bismuth nanoparticles
supported on the carbon matrix.

Detección simultánea de Zn, Cd, Pb, Cu por Voltamperometría

Zn, Cd, Pb, Cu simultaneous detection
by anodic stripping voltammetry

Aplications and advantatges

  • Multiparametric detection: simultaneous analysis of several heavy metals (Zn, Cd, Pb, Cu, Hg, Ti, Ni, As, etc.)
  • Compact devices / Portable systems
  • Immediate results / In-situ results
  • Low cost
  • High Sensitivity
  • Environmentally friendly

More information

Ferran Vera Gras

Instituto de Microelectrónica de Barcelona
Vicepresidencia Adjunta de Transferencia de Conocimiento
Tel.: +34 – 93 594 77 00
Fax: +34 – 93 580 14 96
ferran.vera@imb-cnm.csic.es