Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Heavy metal sensor for drinking water focus on lead detection with simple platinum electrodes

Technology #7381

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Mark A. Burns
Managed By
Jeremy Nelson
Senior Licensing Specialist, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-936-2095
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending

The technology disclosed is a simple heavy metal sensor to be embedded into water service lines for long term use to prevent lead or other heavy metal outbreaks.

Heavy metal leakage, especially lead, into tap water is a major health concern globally. Lead exposure, especially in children and young adults, causes negative neurological effects at low exposure levels. Market research analysts have predicted that the global water quality sensors market will grow steadily during the forecast period and will post a CAGR of more than 7% by 2020. Prevention and detection of lead into tap water is a growing market due to the increasing number of heavy metal detection technology available. However, current technologies are limited to one-time use or require regular maintenance. Therefore, a need to develop a lead detector that can operate long term without extra effort from the users exists.

A simple long-term use platinum based sensor for the detection of lead and other heavy metals

The technology consists of two- and four-electrode sensors that are used to detect heavy metal contaminants in drinking water; the four-electrode sensor can specifically distinguish lead from other heavy metals. The technology can be embedded into water service lines for long-term use to detect heavy metals in residential water tap lines. The sensor has small costs (~10 cents/sensor) and is powered by two AAA batteries for long-term operation.


  • Detection of heavy metal (especially lead) in water for home water quality monitoring.


  • Inexpensive
  • Small sensor size
  • Long lifetime
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Selective for lead over other common ions in tap water
  • Sensor can be inserted into pipes globally for at home monitoring