Chemical engineering students test for arsenic levels in water

Two senior Miami chemical engineering majors are conducting research on ways to measure low amounts of arsenic, an element that poses a risk to human health, in ground and drinking water.

Arsenic Research

Kuehl and Spilker conduct arsenic tests                     

Emily Kuehl and Robert Spilker have been conducting this research since the beginning of June, and are funding their project with a grant from the EPA.

How exactly do they test for arsenic?

With the guidance of Jason Berberich, professor of in the chemical, paper, and biomedical engineering department, Kuehl and Spilker are working with enzymes found in milk and cellular respiration, to detect small concentrations of arsenic. The team’s goal is to be able to identify arsenic at the smallest amount of 100 nanomolar, a measure of a concentration of a chemical species.

However, Spilker explains what makes their research different then other arsenic detection research. “Detection at this level is currently possible, but requires very expensive equipment in a laboratory setting,” but they are trying to find an easier and less expensive way to conduct this test.

Kuehl and Spilker hope that with their work they will be able to develop a portable field strip test, similar to the test diabetics use to test blood sugar levels.

Kuehl and Spilker hope to learn more about the process of applying for grants, and how to write and publish their results through conducting this research. The team will continue to test these contraction levels through the school year.

By Maggie Cavanaugh, Communications Reporter