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BGU Researchers Invent Sensor to Monitor Water Pollution

BGU Researchers Invent Sensor to Monitor Water Pollution

January 17, 2020

Desert & Water Research

Breaking Israel News — BGN Technologies, the technology-transfer company of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), has introduced a new technology for direct, real-time and continuous measurement of nitrate in the soil. It is also highly resistant to harsh chemical and physical soil conditions.

Prof. Ofer Dahan, Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research

The invention, developed by Prof. Ofer Dahan of the Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Prof. Shlomi Arnon of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Zuckerberg doctoral student Elad Yeshno, relies on an optical nitrate sensor that is based on absorption spectroscopy.

Excessive levels of nitrate in water are one of the main reasons for the disqualification of drinking water, which causes a worldwide environmental problem. Natural nitrate levels in groundwater are generally very low, but excess application of fertilizers in agriculture often result in the leaching of nitrate from the soil to places where water is naturally stored underground.

The sensor can detect nitrate concentrations in the range of tens to hundreds of parts per million.

Over-fertilization is not only a waste of product and money but also an environmental hazard. Managing fertilizer inputs precisely can go a long way toward maximizing value for money on inputs, as well as taking care of the local environment.

“Current methods for measuring soil nitrate are cumbersome, labor-intensive and do not provide a real-time indication on the actual concentration of nutrients in the soil,” said Prof. Dahan.

Prof. Shlomi Arnon, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

“Our invention can supply farmers with valuable data on the amount of nutrient availability for the crops,” Prof. Arnon added. “Our solution enables optimization of fertilizer application thus preventing over-fertilization, as well as economizes irrigation and reduces water resources pollution.”

Nitrate (NO3) is a naturally occurring form of nitrogen in the soil that is created when nitrification – the conversion of ammonium into nitrate – occurs. Nitrate is used as food by plants for growth and production, and its level in the ground varies widely, depending upon the type of soil, climate conditions, rainfall, and fertilizing practices.

Shirley Sheffer Hoffman, a senior vice president for business development, water, energy, and agriculture at BGN Technologies, commented, “This is another example of the cutting-edge multidisciplinary research performed at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research at BGU.”

This project received funding from the Israel Innovation Authority, and now BGN Technologies is seeking an industry partner for its further development and commercialization.

Read more on the Breaking News Israel website >>