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Persistent Pollutants

Reactions: Origin of microfluidic electrochemical sensors for PFAS

July 2, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 21


Letters to the editor

PFAS sensors

I am contacting you regarding a recently published article in C&EN titled “Spurred by New Regulations, the Race Is On for Low-Cost PFAS Sensors,” by Britt E. Erickson. I am specifically reaching out regarding the work that was credited to professor Sagnik Basuray and his research group at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).

I am contacting you to provide a comprehensive account of the conceptualization and maturation of the microfluidic electrochemical sensor technology based on metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) described in the section “MOFs meet microfluidics.” My aim is to highlight some contributions that were missed in the C&EN story.

The initial idea of the MOF-based electrochemical sensor for targeted per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) detection was conceived by a team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) led by Radha Motkuri and me. Our broad idea was to develop a modular sensing technology for various aqueous contaminants of interest. The goal was to create technologies that could either act as stand-alone sensors or be a part of a broader water-testing operation simultaneously looking at multiple contaminants.

Identifying the growing need for rapid PFAS detection, we decided to advance our technology to detect these global contaminants. Combining my background in designing electrochemical sensors for environmental pollutants and Motkuri’s expertise in designing molecular probes with an affinity for fluoroalkyl compounds such as PFAS, we formulated the first electrochemical sensor for PFAS. However, we were still looking for a configuration that would make our approach modular.

At an American Chemical Society conference, Motkuri and I chanced upon a presentation on nonplanar microfluidic sensors developed by Basuray’s group. This gave us an idea to collaborate on integrating our idea of MOF-based electrochemical sensors into Basuray’s device to achieve the desired modularity. Basuray was previously unaware of the global PFAS problem but immediately recognized the transformational advancement that the combination of the PNNL and NJIT technologies could achieve.

Subsequently, the technology was collaboratively developed between PNNL and NJIT. A proof-of-concept demonstration of this technology is described in an ACS journal article. A patent on this technology was filed jointly by Battelle Memorial Institute and NJIT. The key contributors of this technology outside of Motkuri, me, and Basuray are Dushyant Barpaga, Jennifer Soltis, Vaithiyalingam Shutthanandan, Kee Sung Han, and Peter McGrail from PNNL and Yu-Hsuan Cheng and Roli Kargupta from NJIT.

Sayandev “Dev” Chatterjee
Bothell, Washington



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