Detecting Low Concentrations of Pharmaceutical Waste and Contaminants in Water: A Cost-Effective Approach

22 March 2024 1994
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March 21, 2024

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endorsed by Bar-Ilan University

Scientific researchers are growing increasingly concerned about pharmaceutical waste and contaminants, especially in terms of drinking water and food safety. Researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Bar-Ilan University have created an innovative solution to counter this problem. They have developed a highly sensitive plasmonic-based detector designed to identify harmful piperidine residue in water.

The Environmental Science: Nano journal has recently published the team's findings.

Piperidine is a tiny, powerful molecule used in the pharmaceutical industry and as a food additive. It poses considerable health risks due to its toxic properties. Therefore, detection of even minute quantities of piperidine is crucial for the assurance of water and food safety. Bar-Ilan University researchers have advanced a plasmonic substrate, comprising triangular cavities carved out of a silver thin film and safeguarded by a 5-nanometer silicon dioxide layer, that is exceptionally sensitive to piperidine and can detect low concentrations in water.

Mohamed Hamode, a Ph.D. student at Bar-Ilan's Department of Chemistry collaborated with Dr. Elad Segal, to create a small device using a focused ion microscope. The device, about the size of a dime, drills nanometer-sized holes on a metal surface. Hamode is able to create holes of different shapes, courtesy of a custom-built computer program.

Being smaller than the wavelength of visible light, these holes amplify the electrical field on the surface, resulting in concentrated light in very small areas. This phenomenon increases optical effects significantly, thus enabling low concentration molecules previously undetected by optical probes, to be identified.

The plasmonic substrate's concentrated and heightened electromagnetic field provides an efficient alternative to the substrates commonly used in Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS). This paves the way for the use of affordable, portable Raman devices offering quicker and cost-effective analysis.

'The research heralds a significant progression in environmental monitoring,' said Prof. Adi Salomon, the senior researcher from Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Chemistry and Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials. 'Our findings illustrate the detection of low concentrations of piperidine in water via affordable optics by utilizing nano-patterned metallic surfaces, thus offering a hopeful solution for environmental analytical setups.'

The study's findings exhibit the potential of using plasmonic-based detectors to revolutionize environmental monitoring, focusing particularly on the detection of pharmaceutical waste and contaminants. Mohamed Hamode will present this innovation at an upcoming international conference on microscopy in Italy.

Information courtesy of Bar-Ilan University