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July 31, 2023

EPA Announces $1.3 Million in Research Funding to Develop Nanosensors to Detect Pesticides and Mitigate Their Impacts

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On July 31, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it provided more than $1.3 million in funding to a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to develop nanosensor technology that can detect, monitor, and degrade commonly used pesticides found in water that can harm human health. According to EPA, using funding from the grant, researchers will develop an integrated, portable, sensor-controlled water treatment technology that itself generates the chemicals needed for treatment. EPA states that the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Integrated Portable Raman and Electrochemical NanoSystem (I-PRENS) will be used for rapid onsite detection and degradation of neonicotinoid pesticides in drinking water supplies. Researchers 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. EPA notes that 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.” EPA notes that it expects the results of the research to help low income, underrepresented, rural communities in Alabama.

According to EPA, 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. Chris Frey, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development, stated that “[t]he 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.”