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Real-Time, In Situ Measurements of Geochemical, Biogeochemical and Microbial Processes in the Subsurface


Sensitive, accurate, and real-time monitoring of geochemical, biogeochemical, and microbial conditions are needed in subsurface environments, including
groundwater, sediments, and biofilms. In particular, highly selective, sensitive, and rugged in situ devices are needed for low-cost field deployment in remote locations, in order to enhance our ability to monitor processes at finer levels of resolution and over broader areas. Therefore, grant applications are sought to develop innovative sensors and systems to detect and monitor geochemical and biogeochemical processes that control the chemical speciation or transport of metals and radionuclides in the subsurface. Only the following radionuclides and metals are of interest: technetium, chromium, strontium-90, mercury, uranium, iodine-129, plutonium, americium, cesium-137, and cobalt. The ability to distinguish between the relevant oxidation states of these elements and their chemical species is of particular concern. In addition, the microbes and metabolic processes of interest are limited to those that may be involved in controlling the subsurface fate, transport, and remediation of these elements. Grant applications that address other contaminants will be declined. Grant applications must provide convincing documentation (experimental data, calculations, etc.) to show that the sensing method is both highly sensitive (i.e., low detection limit), precise, and highly selective to the target analyte, microbe, or microbial association (i.e., free of anticipated physical/chemical/biological interferences). Approaches that leave significant doubt regarding sensor functionality in realistic multi-component samples and realistic field conditions will not be considered.

Grant applications also are sought to develop integrated sensing systems for autonomous or unattended applications of the above measurement needs. The integrated system should include all of the components necessary for a complete sensor package (such as micro-machined pumps, valves, micro-sensors, solar power cells, etc.) for field applications in the subsurface. Approaches of interest include: (1) fiber optic, solid-state, chemical, or silicon micro-machined sensors; and (2) biosensors (devices employing biological molecules or systems in the sensing elements) that can be used in the field – biosensor systems may incorporate, but are not limited to, whole cell biosensors (i.e., chemiluminescent or bioluminescent systems), enzyme or immunology-linked detection systems (e.g., enzyme-linked immunosensors incorporating colorimetric or fluorescent portable detectors), lipid characterization systems, or DNA/RNA
probe technology with amplification and hybridization. Substantial progress has been made in fiber optics and chemical sensing technology in the last decade; therefore, grant applications that propose minor adaptations of readily available materials/hardware, and/or cannot demonstrate substantial improvements over the current state-of-the-art, are not of interest and will be declined.

Questions – contact David Lesmes,

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