Tech Briefs

Savannah River National Laboratory

Elemental Mercury Probe


Engineers at SRNL have designed a new probe for the identification of elemental mercury in the subsurface using direct push techniques. The device provides a cone-penetrometer based sensor that produces an electric potential when mercury is contacted in the subsurface. This direct-push approach provides an easy-to-use and minimally invasive technique for characterization of mercury contaminated soils and sediments.

Stage of development

SRNL has conducted proof-of-concept testing with significant preliminary results. Additional testing and further research and development are currently under way. Evaluation and deployment of this device and technique is being utilized at locations within the United States for detection and characterization of mercury contaminated sites.

At a glance

  • New tooling for identification of mercury in subsurface
  • Rapid site characterization
  • Minimally invasive technique
  • Easy measurement and logging of electromotive potential
  • U.S. Patent 8,928,325 B2

How it works

The device incorporates use of a disposable, sacrificial tip to cover the electrode during deployment. The abrasive action of the subsurface during insertion of the probe removes the tip covering allowing for a spontaneous electrical reaction (potential) when mercury is present. This potential can be easily measured and logged with standard equipment. During the reaction the mercury present is not depleted and serves as a catalyst creating a unique voltage signal at depth.

Partnering Opportunities

SRNL invites interested companies with proven capabilities in this area of expertise to enter into a licensing agreement with SRNL to market this nuclear material detection system. Interested companies will be requested to submit a business plan setting forth company qualifications, strategies, activities, and milestones for commercializing this invention.

Qualifications should include past experience at bringing similar products to market, reasonable schedule for product launch, sufficient manufacturing capacity, established distribution networks, and evidence of sufficient financial resources for product development and launch.

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Contact Information

Savannah River National Laboratory