UCL Faculty of Life Sciences


UCL and Imperial develop sensor to tackle global threat of arsenic in drinking water

A new handheld arsenic sensor, co-developed at UCL, could save millions of lives by detecting harmful levels of water contamination.

UCL and Imperial tackle global threat of arsenic in drinking water

23 April 2021

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 140 million people across 70 countries drink water containing arsenic above safe levels. Professor Joanne Santini, from UCL’s Department of Structural & Molecular Biology, has come up with a solution: a handheld sensor to quickly measure arsenic levels.

In collaboration with Imperial, the sensor Joanne’s team have developed produces an immediate arsenic reading, at a cost of less than $1 per test. This makes it suitable for testing in rural areas in low-middle income countries, where the problem of arsenic poisoning from water is greatest.

UCL Innovation & Enterprise helped Joanne and her team secure knowledge exchange funding, so they could visit arsenic affected areas in Bangladesh. A UCL spinout, Bio Nano Consulting, has now patented the sensor design and, using a Smart Award from Innovate UK, created a prototype. The new sensor, which resembles the blood glucose meters used by diabetics, produces a digital reading of the arsenic level in just one minute. 

Commenting on this game-changing product, Universities and Science Minister Sam Gyimah said: "This sensor to detect harmful levels of water contamination will make a huge difference across developing nations, potentially saving millions of lives.”

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Read the full story on the UCL Innovation & Enterprise website

Other links
Simple arsenic sensor could save lives
UCL Department of Structural & Molecular Biology
Research paper from the Journal of Water & Health about the sensor project