Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Mechanical Engineering

First Advisor

Guiren Wang


Due to risk of environmental and biological accumulation of Cadmium (Cd), improved methods of early detection and monitoring must be explored as a preventative measure. Listed as one of the top three toxic heavy metals by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the effects on ecological and human systems have well documented side-effects of physical mutation, reproductive sterility, kidney failure, liver disease, bone loss, and death. Found in batteries, metal plating, pigments, plastics, and cigarettes, Cd is also used as a neutron absorber in the nuclear industry as well as having 3 known radioactive isotopes. Urine Cd levels, which have been widely used to predict whole body levels, increase when kidney damage occurs, thus increasing the importance to monitor and detect as early as possible. Although several methods of detection and monitoring are currently in use, they are insufficient for reasons including massive expense, weak specificity causing false readings, and/or a lack of portability. By exploiting naturally occurring mechanisms known to micro-/nanofluidics, a novel approach to Cd detection, measurement, and preconcentration was explored using the finite element computational software COMSOL. An open flow system of a nanochannel was explored through manipulation of the surface charge density. With a dominant negatively charged density on the walls, positive surface charge densities were adjacently placed at the center of the nanochannel causing a constriction of flow and allowing preconcentration of the analytes. When the open flow system was scaled up to a microchannel, the mechanism was found to have little effect on constriction of the flow.

A preconcentration effect was discovered in a closed flow system when the adjacent patches were modeled as being impermeable to charge, causing the molecules to migrate to and remain at the central region of the microchannel once the dynamic process reached steady state. It was found to have the ability to concentrate Cd at an initial concentration of 0.5 mol/m3, which is nearly half the limit of commercially available technology. Additionally, this preconcentration mechanism was demonstrated to potentially advance its capabilities by attaching channels in series or parallel to further preconcentrate for improved detection. Finally, measurement of extremely low concentrations of Cd is possible due to differences seen in the concentration distribution profiles once steady-state is reached.


© 2013, Paul F Wach