Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Portable instant test for lead paint based on gelation

Technology #6016

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Anne J. McNeil
Managed By
Jeremy Nelson
Senior Licensing Specialist, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-936-2095
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending
US Patent Pending

Lead, a widely used heavy metal in paints, plumbing, fuel and several other applications was discontinued due to the dangers of lead poisoning in the late 1970s. Exposure to lead has severe adverse effects on the nervous system and these effects are much more pronounced in children < 6yr compared to adults. Over a half million children are affected by exposure to lead each year worldwide. Several mandates and regulations, including a ban on use of lead paints in homes, have been issued by most countries to limit exposure to lead or lead compounds. Several detection methods and do-it-yourself test kits were developed to test for the presence of lead in households and limit exposure to lead. The detection methods, although reliable, require sophisticated instrumentation and the test kits often lead to ambiguous results thus lacking credibility and sensitivity. An easy to use and reliable test is therefore required for detecting the presence of lead in households.

Portable Field Sensor for Lead Paint based on Gelation

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a novel and portable sensor to detect lead in paint samples. The sensor is a ligand/material that undergoes a visible change in its appearance immediately upon binding to lead or lead compounds. The method thus enables the unambiguous detection of lead by naked eye with no additional instrumentation or training. The sensor has the ability to detect very low concentrations of lead compared to current commercially available lead test kits.


  • Do-it-yourself lead test kit for detection of lead or lead compounds in:
    • Lead paint during renovation of older houses or buildings
    • Children’s toys and play area

  • Potential application in detection of lead in:
    • Drinking water
    • Pipes, solders and plumbing
    • Cosmetics


  • Simple and easy to use technology
  • Unambiguous detection of lead through visible change in the appearance of the sensor material
  • No equipment or training is required to interpret test results
  • Increased sensitivity and credibility compared to existing lead test kits