Fiona X. 2024 | BASIS Independent McLean
- Project Title: Transforming Water Quality with Sensor Electrochemistry: Potential Benefits for Pollution Reduction in the Potomac River
- Basis Independent Advisor: Dr. Grove
- Internship Location: The MITRE Corporation, McLean Campus
- Onsite Mentor: Dr. Joe Roberts
The Potomac River, which supplies drinking water to the 5.1 million people living on its watershed, has become increasingly polluted. According to Military Poisons and WILPF US Earth Democracy, a water sample in October 2021 revealed the contaminants include 7.8 ppt of PFOS and 6.1 ppt of PFOA, which is over 100 times each compounds’ safe level in drinking water as established by the EPA. PFOS and PFOA are types of PFAS, a class of man-made toxins with negative health effects such as higher risk of kidney cancer and liver damage. MITRE is working to develop a deployable sensor that will detect and remediate PFAS from natural waterways. Analytical electrochemistry allows for such sensors to be portable, so by manipulating factors like cell potential, measuring the current of the sensor, and working with different samples of PFAS, we can analyze the characteristics of an optimal sensor. I plan to conduct a literature review of sensor technology’s use to improve water quality in other rivers and compare electrochemical sensors with other types to conclude on the best potential practice of applying sensors to the Potomac. In the future, sensor technology could be applied to waterways all over America – experts estimate more than 200 million Americans are served by water systems with PFOS or PFOA in their drinking water at a concentration of 1 ppt or higher according to the Environmental Working Group.