Passive Flux Meter that Quantifies Contaminants in Surface Water and Groundwater Flow

Technology #11347

Inexpensively Detects and Quantifies Dissolved Pollutants

This passive flux meter (PFM) quantifies contaminant fluxes and loads in fluid flow systems, including groundwater, surface water and difficult-to-monitor Karst or fractured-rock aquifers. In the groundwater configuration, passive flux meters are inserted into screened groundwater monitoring wells for contaminant site assessment. The PFMs, which can quantify dissolved contaminants even in challenging Karst terrain, are typically left in place for one to four weeks to trap dissolved contaminants in groundwater and release tracers. About 40 percent of the groundwater used for drinking in the United States originates from Karst aquifers. These complex aquifers, characterized by springs, caves, sinkholes and other unique hydrogeology, are highly productive, but extremely vulnerable to contamination and difficult to monitor. Many Karst aquifers are located near landfills, septic tanks and sites of low-level radioactive waste. Ingesting contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, liver disease, kidney damage and a host of other health problems. This technology, developed by University of Florida researchers, can be implemented in fluid flow systems as small as pipes or as large as rivers and lakes to measure contaminant transport. The PFMs also estimate fracture locations, orientations of inclination and apertures in fracture rock settings.


Monitoring device that quantifies water and contaminant flux in groundwater, surface water and difficult-to-access Karst and fractured-rock aquifers as well as other general flow systems


  • Allows analysis of fluid flow systems at multiple locations, providing maps that help identify locations of concern
  • Monitors target chemicals in fluid flow systems, avoiding the need to regularly extract samples for analysis
  • Enables cumulative feedback on the flow system, eliminating the need for costly equipment and complex operating procedures
  • Works even in challenging Karst terrain, simplifying contamination assessments


University of Florida researchers have developed a passive flux meter that quantifies contaminants in fluid flow systems, including groundwater, surface water and challenging fractured and Karst formations. In the surface water and Karst applications the device is comprised of a hydrofoil body or shell with a bundle or continuum of one or more permeable sorptive columns inside or outside the PFM’s body. Time integrated measurement of fluid and contaminant flux is made possible using tracers equilibrated on the device that are sensitive to water flow. The invention is placed in contact with the flow field, such as a stream or karst opening, allowing target chemicals in the fluid to be transported through the device and trapped on the sorbent matrix. The permeable sorptive column units can then be removed for analysis to quantify fluid and contaminant flux.

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