Contamination of soil and groundwater by petroleum-based products is an extremely widespread and important environmental problem. Here we have tested a simple optical approach for detecting and identifying such industrial contaminants in soil samples, using a set of fluorescent DNA-based chemosensors in pattern-based sensing. We used a set of diverse industrial volatile chemicals to screen and identify a set of five short oligomeric DNA fluorophores on PEG-polystyrene microbeads that could differentiate the entire set after exposure to their vapors in air. We then tested this set of five fluorescent chemosensor compounds for their ability to respond with fluorescence changes when exposed to headgas over soil samples contaminated with one of ten different samples of crude oil, petroleum distillates, fuels, lubricants and additives. Statistical analysis of the quantitative fluorescence change data (as Δ(R, G, B) emission intensities) revealed that these five chemosensors on beads could differentiate all ten product mixtures at 1000 ppm in soil within 30 minutes. Tests of sensitivity with three of the contaminant mixtures showed that they could be detected and differentiated in amounts at least as low as one part per million in soil. The results establish that DNA-polyfluorophores may have practical utility in monitoring the extent and identity of environmental spills and leaks, while they occur and during their remediation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes