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Detection and quantification “in situ” of mercury, copper and nitrites in water and food products using a polymeric detector membrane



Last update

Mon, Aug, 23, 2021


Thu, Aug, 18, 2022


A method based on the use of cross-linked copolymers membrane, which act as colorimetric sensors, for the detection and / or quantification of divalent metals: mercury [Hg (II)] and copper [Cu (II)]; and anions: nitrite (NO2-), is offered by a Spanish research group under license and / or manufacturing agreement. This patented method is applicable in different matrices, both aqueous mediums and food products.


The Spanish research group is an interdisciplinary and interuniversity group in the areas of knowledge of biotechnology, biochemistry and chemistry. This Spanish research group belongs to a medium-sized Spanish university founded in 1994, `which houses 76 other research groups more.

The university has been very active in several European research and innovation programmes (H2020 and previous FPs, LIFE, Justice, ERASMUS+, Interreg, COST, LLP, IEE, Research Fund for Coal and Steel, D. G. for Competition Policy and Strategy, Science for Peace and Security Programme-OTAN…) with over 50 European projects; with the role of coordinator in 22 projects and over 8.4 M€ overall EU funding received. Currently, this university participates in 26 on-going projects (in 12 of them as coordinator) in 8 different EU programmes with an average of 1.7 M€ of EU funding in the last 4 years.

The method developed in this patent is based on cross-linked copolymers membranes that act as chromogenic sensors, i.e., they are materials that change their color in the presence of certain substances. That color change takes place when divalent metal cations and/or oxidazing anions are present in the medium.

The method developed in this patent is based on the use of cross-linked copolymers, obtained by structures of linear polymer formula, derived from dithizone. The possibility of detecting and/or quantifying, with the same method, both divalent metals (mercury and copper) and oxidizing anions (nitrites), makes it very versatile and turn it into unique in the market. In addition, this versatility is transferred to the measurement, which can be carried out with different equipment. In addition, it does not produce colour migrations.

The polymers are obtained by copolymerization of three or more monomers, among which polyfunctional monomers are included, to give rise to materials with good mechanical properties, both in dry and in wet, which behave as solid colorimetric sensors. They can be presented as films, dense or porous membrane and/or gel. Therefore, this method can be applied to any type of sample without prior treatment, in a simpler way than the other available methods. For the detection of analytes, it is required, at least, the use of a method, independently chosen between: the use of the RGB parameters of a digital photograph or the use of spectroscopic techniques.

The cross-linked copolymers membranes, that act as chromogenic sensors, present a high responsiveness in:
- Drinking water.
- Industrial water: for example, in the gold mining industry.
- Food products: mercury can be present in different fish and, due to its toxicity in the body, it is very important to detect it before its consumption.
- Biomedical healthcare industry: urine, saliva, blood serum, etc.

The researcher group is interested in international cooperation under license agreement and / or manufacturing agreement, with other research organization or universities and any size companies in the field, for example, of agrofood, water, biotechnology and health.

Technology Keywords

Environmental and Biometrics Sensors, Actuators;Food Packaging / Handling;Food Microbiology / Toxicology / Quality Control;Traceability of food;Sensor Technology related to measurements

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Patents granted

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Exploitation of RTD Results

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Detailed Market Application Codes (VEIC)

MA Keyword

Biochemistry / Biophysics;In-vitro diagnostics;Health food;Soft drinks and bottling plants

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Collaboration Type


License agreement:
- Type: public and private organizations related to the water quality sector, medical analysis or the food industry.
- Activity: food products, drink water, gold mining industry (industrial water) and biomedical health care sector.
- Role: a transfer of rights involving the authorization to use the patented technology, in return for a fee or share of royalties.

Manufacturing agreement
- Type: public and private organizations related to the water quality sector, medical analysis or the food industry.
- Activity: food, water and medical quality control.
- Role: establish an agreement with an eye on production of this cross-linked copolymers membrane.

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