Document Type


Date of Original Version



Mechanical, Industrial and Systems Engineering


Nutrient pollution remains one of the greatest threats to water quality and imposes numerous public health and ecological concerns. Phosphate, the most common form of phosphorus, is one of the key nutrients necessary for plant growth. However, phosphate concentration in water should be carefully monitored for environmental protection requirements. Hence, an easy-to-use, field-deployable, and reliable device is needed to measure phosphate concentrations in the field. In this study, an inexpensive dip strip is developed for the detection of low concentrations of phosphate in water and seawater. In this device, ascorbic acid/antimony reagent was dried on blotting paper, which served as the detection zone, and was followed by a wet chemistry protocol using the molybdenum method. Ammonium molybdate and sulfuric acid were separately stored in liquid form to significantly improve the lifetime of the device and enhance the reproducibility of its performance. The device was tested with deionized water and Sargasso Sea seawater. The limits of detection and quantification for the optimized device using a desktop scanner were 0.134 ppm and 0.472 ppm for phosphate in water and 0.438 ppm and 1.961 ppm in seawater, respectively. The use of the portable infrared lightbox previously developed at our lab improved the limits of detection and quantification by a factor of three and were 0.156 ppm and 0.769 ppm for the Sargasso Sea seawater. The device’s shelf life, storage conditions, and limit of detection are superior to what was previously reported for the paper-based phosphate detection devices.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.