System and Process for Early Detection of Nitrification in Water using a Fluorescence-Based Sensor


Technology # 18-16





Nitrification is an unintentional process that is characterized by biological ammonia oxidation and necessitates remedial action, forcing water utilities to flush their distribution systems, resulting in losses of billions of gallons of treated water per year for large water utilities. In addition, nitrification can lead to chemical and biological degradation of water quality and can potentially impact compliance with the United States Safe Drinking Water Act. 


Biological techniques used to quantify the nitrifying bacteria activity are impractical for real-time monitoring because they require significant laboratory efforts and/or lengthy incubation times. Currently, drinking water utilities rely on physicochemical parameters, including total chlorine, monochloramine, free ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate concentrations as nitrification indicators, but these metrics lack specificity to nitrifying bacteria, which is the main problem. To improve nitrification detection in chloraminated drinking water, Julian and his team have developed a real-time fluorescence-based sensor system to detect the early onset of nitrification events. Importantly, this method and system can be utilized to detect soluble microbial products (SMPs), which are specific to nitrifying bacteria and produce unique fluorescence signals that can be detected in early nitrification stages, before changes in pH or inorganic nitrogen. A sensor system that provides an early warning of nitrification could be very helpful to water utilities that experience nitrification events by alerting them to the problem sooner, and permitting less costly remedial actions.


This invention relates generally to a system and process for early detection of nitrification in water using a fluorescence-based sensor, and more particularly to a system and process for early detection of biological ammonia oxidation in water utilizing a fluorescence-based sensor configured to read increases in a fluorescence excitation-emission wavelength pair that is responsive to a period of time (up to 7 days) prior to the onset of biological ammonia oxidation, which is considered to be a nitrification event.





Real-time fluorescence sensor with an excitation-emission wavelength pair of 230 nm excitation and 340 nm emission that can be used in drinking water distribution systems along with software that facilitates corrections of water quality derived interferences.




Detection of impending ammonia oxidation in drinking water distribution systems to facilitate early remedial action.




The system includes a fluorescence-based sensor configured to read a fluorescence excitation-emission wavelength pair that is responsive to a period of time prior to an onset of biological ammonia oxidation or nitrification event. In addition, the fluorescence-based sensor can be a real-time fluorescence-based sensor in communication with a software to account for water quality derived interferences.



This invention/technology is available for licensing.

For interested parties seeking further information, feel free to contact:

Mark Allen Lanoue

Technology Manager / Tech Ventures

University of Arkansas

(479) 575-7243



Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Mark Lanoue
Technology Manager
University of Arkansas
Julian Fairey
Thien Do
Ashley Pifer
David Wahman
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