Novel electrochemical system for phosphate detection

A research team led by Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences is developing a new compact sensor system for online measurement of phosphate concentration in water bodies

25 February, 2019

In contrast to conventional systems, the novel system is capable of detecting phosphorus electrochemically, without using any external detection substances. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is funding the two-year joint project CaFroPeSens (Care-Free o-Phosphate electrochemical sensor system) with over EUR 740,000.

The growing use of phosphate in the form of fertilizers or in products of the cleaning industry leads to an excessive nutrient enrichment of our water bodies and thus to the deterioration of water quality. Conventional detection systems apply a standardized wet-chemical method. Disadvantage: Detection substances must be brought along and added at the right time and in the right concentration in order to allow for a correct analysis. In addition, the maintenance of wet-chemical systems is costly.

The objective of the partners of the joint project CaFroPeSens, launched in January 2019 at a kick-off event at the Fraunhofer ICT, Pfinztal, is to develop a method that allows for a continuous online measurement of the phosphate concentration and makes it unnecessary to add any chemicals. Instead, their compact phosphate sensor provides all the required substances on an electrochemical basis. The concentration of phosphate is also determined electrochemically, whereas conventional detection needs to apply optical methods. The aim of the researchers is to use the sensor to eventually replace the much larger, wet-chemical detection systems.

In addition, the partners are working on developing a multi-parameter probe in which the new sensor will be integrated. In doing so, they are pursuing a "smart sensor" approach: The self-sufficient probe is equipped with additional sensors such as temperature sensors, pH meters or conductivity sensors and is meant to automatically record and transmit all measured data.

In addition to the Institute for Applied Research (IAF) of Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences, the following partners are involved in this joint project: Gebrüder Heyl Analysentechnik GmbH & Co. KG, Hildesheim, SEBA Hydrometrie GmbH & Co. KG, Kaufbeuren and the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology ICT based in Pfinztal.

"CaFroPeSens" is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the funding measure "KMU Innovative: Resource Efficiency and Climate Protection", scope of application "Sustainable Water Management". The measure is part of the BMBF programme "Research for Sustainable Development" (FONA³).