Solid sensory film for in situ detection and quantification of Iron, Aluminium and Mercury

  • From Spain
  • Responsive
  • Patents for licensing

Summary of the technology

The development of simple, fast and inexpensive colorimetric sensors for timeless and in-situ detection of trace amounts of iron, aluminium and mercury in aqueous media by non-specialized personnel has become a major challenge, mainly because the presence or absence of these compounds can lead to a number of problems, e.g., contamination issues.

As a result of the above described requirements, a new low cost polymer material has been developed and patented for the rapid visual colorimetric detection and quantification of iron, aluminium and mercury. A precise quantification of the species can be done in minutes using a picture taken with the camera of a mobile phone, and a broad quantification can be visually achieved.


New and innovative aspects

These new materials have the advantage of providing good physical properties and to facilitate naked eye detection of the chemical species in water solution, or to quantify these species by processing the colour parameters of digital photographs. Moreover, mobile phone can take the picture and automatically process it for giving the accurate concentration of these species.

Main advantages of its use

  • The polymeric film changes its color upon entering into contact with water containing the chemical species (target) allowing for rapid and in-situ qualitative and quantitative analysis.
  • The sensory system can be used by non-specialized personnel and under any ambient conditions). Quick analyses can be carried out without any equipment or energy source.
  • The use of expensive equipment reagents is avoided.
  • The sensory material is extremely stable (over 100 years).
  • It is light and dimensionless and, accordingly, can be easily transported and no additional kit is needed.
  • The material can detect iron in free form or in complex form, e.g., in wine and in blood serum.
  • It can be stored anywhere where there is no extreme environmental conditions.
  • Does not require the use of personal protective equipment (gloves, glasses, etc.)


Polymer membrane based on two commercial biocompatible monomers, a sensory monomer, and a crosslinker. The film is colorless and transparent.

The sensory material detects selectively iron, aluminum and mercury. It turns dark green upon entering into contact with iron, deep orange with mercury, and in the presence of aluminum becomes fluorescent.

Moreover, quantification can be carried out using digital parameters (RGB) of a photograph taken with a digital camera or using a smart phone.

In addition to this, the material is highly handable both in dry and water-swelled state.


  • Detection of Legionella in cooling towers and evaporative condensers.
  • Iron chlorosis in orchards and vineyards. An in-situ, costless and rapid measurement shows if soils have the correct iron content, showing whether the soil is suitable or need to be treated.
  • Wastewater and drinking water treatment plants use daily large amounts of coagulants (salts of iron and aluminum). Therefore, there is a real risk of water contamination by these components. This risk can be deeply diminished by using this detector.
  • Piping in industry. All systems containing iron pipes exhibit a corrosion risk and in paralled a contamination hazard. The formation of iron oxides causes problems in industrial processes that depend directly on quality of the water flowing through these pipes. Similarly, boiler systems have also this problem.

Intellectual property status

Protected by Patent P201300575

Current development status

In use, test results available

Desired business relationship

Trade Agreement, License Agreement, Technical cooperation: further development, Technical Cooperation: testing of new applications; Technical Cooperation: adaptation to specific needs

Intellectual property status

Related Keywords

  • Measurements and Standards
  • Protecting Man and Environment
  • Consumer related
  • Industrial Products
  • Other
  • health
  • contaminants
  • mercury
  • colorimetric sensor
  • visual detection
  • intoxication
  • iron
  • polymeric film
  • Aluminium


The aim of the The Technology Transfer Office (TTO) of the Univesidad de Burgos is to promote Innovation technology through the reseach results transfer and the conexions between the University and the new needs and requirements of the society - we are the link between the University and the Industry. Contact person: José Manuel López (


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