EVOLUTION AND FUTURE OF NITRATE SENSING TECHNOLOGY
Decagon Devices Inc
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With the historic and recent attention to nutrient pollution in aquatic environments worldwide, the need for nutrient-sensing tools becomes increasingly prevalent. Interest has piqued in the sources of pollution and the dynamics of nutrients coming from these sources. Researchers have higher expectations for immediate information than in decades past. Due to instrumentation challenges, agricultural runoff and groundwater dynamics are currently cumbersome to quantify, involving the use of laboratory instrumentation, ion-selective electrodes, or optical in-situ devices. Optical continuous monitoring nutrient sensing devices that are currently available to the market were primarily designed for oceanographic or large water body applications. More recent efforts have been made to adapt such tools to agricultural applications. On the front lines of these efforts have been such groups as the Alliance for Coastal Technology with their Nutrient Sensor Challenge, and Tulane with their Grand Challenge, encouraging developers to progress the market. Scientists are working together with developers to customize sensors to modern studies. Our group at Decagon Devices, Inc. is currently working on a next generation nitrate sensor employing absorption spectroscopy techniques to eliminate the need for reagents and system maintenance. Our focus and interest has been in tile drains as well as edge-of-field measurements by the connection of this sensor to our drain gauge lysimeter. This nitrate sensor uses a small hose and pump for sample delivery to a surface-deployable unit that is low-maintenance, low-cost, and has low power-consumption as compared to its current market counterparts.