Description: Sensitive, accurate, and real-time monitoring of geochemical, biogeochemical, and microbial conditions are needed in subsurface environments, including groundwater, sediments, and biofilms. In particular, highly selective, sensitive, and rugged in situ devices are needed for low-cost field deployment in remote locations, in order to enhance our ability to monitor processes at finer levels of resolution and over broader areas. Therefore, grant applications are sought to develop innovative sensors and systems to detect and monitor subsurface geochemical and biogeochemical processes that control the chemical speciation or transport of radionuclides, metals and organic contaminants of concern at contaminated DOE sites (e.g., technetium, chromium, strontium-90, mercury, uranium, iodine-129, plutonium, americium, cesium-137, cobalt, carbon tetrachloride, TCE, PCE, VC, DCE and emerging organic contaminants). The ability to distinguish between the relevant oxidation states of the radionuclide and metal contaminants is of particular concern. Innovative approaches for monitoring multi-component biogeochemical signatures of subsurface systems including nutrients are also of interest. As is the development of robust field instruments for multi-isotope and quasi-real time analyses of suites of isotopes (e.g. CH4, CO2, nitrogen compounds, and water isotopes). Grant applications must provide convincing documentation (experimental data, calculations, etc.) to show that the sensing method is both highly sensitive (i.e., low detection limit), precise, and highly selective to the target analyte, microbe, or microbial association (i.e., free of anticipated physical-chemical-biological interferences). Approaches that leave significant doubt regarding sensor functionality in realistic multi-component samples and realistic field conditions will not be considered.
Grant applications also are sought to develop integrated sensing systems for autonomous or unattended applications of the above measurement needs. The integrated system should include all of the components necessary for a complete sensor package (such as micro-machined pumps, valves, micro-sensors, solar power cells, etc.) for field applications in the subsurface. Approaches of interest include: (1) automated sample collection and monitoring of subsurface biogeochemistry and microbiology community structure, (2) fiber optic, solid-state, chemical, or silicon micro-machined sensors; and (3) biosensors (devices employing biological molecules or systems in the sensing elements) that can be used in the field biosensor systems may incorporate, but are not limited to, whole cell biosensors (i.e., chemiluminescent or bioluminescent systems), enzyme or immunology-linked detection systems (e.g., enzyme-linked immunosensors incorporating colorimetric or fluorescent portable detectors), lipid characterization systems, or DNA-RNA probe technology with amplification and hybridization. Grant applications that propose minor adaptations of readily available materials-hardware, and-or cannot demonstrate substantial improvements over the current state-of-the-art are not of interest and will be declined.