EPA's "Cleaning-Up the Nations Waste Sites: Market and Technology Trends (2004)" estimates that there are 294,000 contaminated waste sites in the United States. Characterizing suspected contaminated sites remains difficult, time consuming, and expensive. Samples are typically sent to laboratories for costly testing that can take weeks. While some field detection kits and instruments exist, they tend to be expensive, difficult to use, and difficult to interpret. In the proposed project, Morphix proposes to develop coordination complex imprinted polymer (CCIP) technology that could result in a product family of field-ready, easy-to-use, low-cost, no- power colorimetric detection cards for use in detecting contaminants in soil. The initial proof of concept effort focuses on applying CCIP technology to detecting lead in soil. Lead is a stable, heavy metal that is an accumulative neurotoxin in mammals and other animals. It is particularly toxic to children and is one of the most common contaminants found at Superfund sites and ranks second on the Agency for Toxic Substances &Disease Registry National Priority List of Hazardous Substances (ATSDR, 2011). Natural levels of the contaminant in soil typically range from 50 - 400 ppm but can be found at levels exceeding 11,000 ppm near abandoned smelting sites (also known as Ghost Factories). Recent articles about Ghost Factories in the general press have highlighted the danger that lead in soil presents to human life and human childhood development. In this Phase I effort, Morphix Technologies proposes to develop and demonstrate water-compatible CCIPs which are capable of selectively sequestering and concentrating lead complexes resulting from the extraction of lead contaminated soils. Highly selective capture and concentration of the lead contaminant, in conjunction with carefully formulated colorimetric detection chemistries for lead(II), will establih the foundation for the future development of a simple, low-cost presumptive field detection kit. Such a kit will significantly enhance contaminated grid assessment/remediation efforts (e.g. Superfund and Brownfield sites, Ghost factories) by facilitating more fine-scale delineation of the contaminated grid while substantially reducing the time and monetary costs associated with these endeavors.

Public Health Relevance

Morphix Technologies proposes to develop a field technology that easily and inexpensively detects contaminated soil in Ghost Factories, Superfund and Brownfield sites, and other contaminated sites. Currently, characterization of contaminated sites is expensive and time consuming;it often requires extensive laboratory testing. The proposed technology has the potential to lead to a field detection platform which would lower cost and increase throughput, thereby facilitating clean-up of contaminated sites.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IMST-M (13))
Program Officer
Henry, Heather F
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Morphix Technologies, Inc.
Virginia Beach
United States
Zip Code