Copper Nanowire Array as Highly Selective Electrochemical Sensor of Nitrate Ions in Water

Contamination of water with nitrate ions is a significant problem that affects many areas of the world. The danger from nitrates is not so much their toxicity, rather low, as their transformation into nitrites and in particular into nitrosamines, substances considered to be a possible carcinogenic risk. For this reason, European legislation has set the maximum permissible concentration of nitrates in drinking water at 44 mg/l. Thus, it is clear that a continuous monitoring of nitrate ions is of high technological interest but it must be rapid, easy to perform and directly performed in situ. Electrochemical detection is certainly among the best techniques to obtain the above requirements. In particular, in this work we have developed a nanostructured sensor based on array of copper nanowires obtained with the simple method of galvanic deposition. The nanostructured sensors have a very short response time with a detection limit less than 10 M. Different interfering species were tested finding a negligible effect except for the chlorine ions. However, this problem has been solved by removing chlorine ions from the water through a simple precipitation of chloride compounds with low solubility. Nanostructured sensors were also used to analyze real water samples (rain, river and drinking water). In the case of drinking water, we have measured a concentration of nitrate ions very close to the that measured by conventional laboratory techniques.