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Novel device can detect fluoride contamination in water

Press Trust of India  |  Geneva 

Scientists have developed a that can measure concentration accurately using only a few drops of water, and help address contamination in

Adding to water has been common practice in a number of countries, including India, the US, Australia, Brazil, and Vietnam, said researchers from the (EPFL) in

In low concentrations -- below 1.5 milligrammes per litre (mg/L) -- can help prevent tooth decay and even strengthen bones, according to the study published in the Journal of the (JACS).

However, going above that can have the opposite effect, causing serious dental and bone disease, especially in children and developing foetuses.

To keep things in check, the WHO has set 1.5 mg/L as the maximum limit for fluoride in

"To determine whether is safe we need to detect fluoride in water at the level of parts-per-million (ppm)," said from EPFL.

"Around 1-1.5 ppm is good for teeth, but in many countries the water sources have concentrations above two ppm can cause serious health issues," Stylianou said.

However, measuring fluoride at such low concentrations with sufficient accuracy is expensive and requires a

Because of this, fluoride contamination in water affects a number of developing countries today, and even parts of developed countries.

Scientists have now built a device that can accurately measure fluoride concentrations using only a few drops of water -- even with low-level contamination -- resulting in a simple change in colour brightness.

The device, named SION-105, is portable, considerably cheaper than current methods, and can be used on-site by virtually anyone, researchers said.

The key to the device is the design of a novel material that the scientists synthesised, they said.

The material belongs to the family of "metal-organic frameworks" (MOFs), compounds made up of a -- or a cluster of -- connected to organic ligands, thus forming one-, two-, or three-dimensional structures.

Because of their structural versatility, MOFs can be used in an ever-growing list of applications, e g separating petrochemicals, detoxing water, and getting hydrogen or even gold out of it.

SION-105 is luminescent by default, but darkens when it encounters fluoride ions.

"Add a few droplets of water and by monitoring the colour change of the MOF one can say whether it is safe to drink the water or not," said Mish Ebrahim, the of the research paper.

"This can now be done on-site, without any chemical expertise," Ebrahim said.

The researchers used the device to determine the fluoride content in different groundwater samples from Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, and

The data corresponded very well when compared to measurements made using ion chromatography, a standard method for measuring fluoride concentration in water.

"This comparison showcases the performance and reliability of SION-105, which, coupled with the portability and ease-of-use of the device, make it a very user-friendly solution for water sampling in remote areas where frequent fluoride concentration monitoring is paramount," said Stylianou.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, February 12 2019. 17:35 IST