A novel, direct-push approach for detecting sulfidated nanoparticulate zero valent iron (S-nZVI) in sediments using reactive and non-reactive fluorophores

Markus Reischer, Anders G. Christensen, Klaus Weber, Dominique J. Tobler, Knud Dideriksen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Injection of microparticulate and nanoparticulate zero valent iron has become a regularly used method for groundwater remediation. Because of subsurface inhomogeneities, however, it is complicated to predict the ZVI transport in the subsurface, meaning that tools capable of determining its distribution after injection are highly useful. Here, we have developed a new direct-push based technique, which combines fluorescent and visible imaging, for detection of sulfidized nanoparticulate zero valent iron (S-nZVI) in the subsurface. Laboratory experiments show that the redox sensitive fluorophore riboflavin is rapidly reduced by S-nZVI within 200 s. Because the reduced riboflavin losses its green fluorescence, it can be used as S-nZVI sensitive indicator. Secondly, S-nZVI is black and tints light coloured sediment to a degree that allows detection in images. For quartz sand, 70 mg/kg of S-nZVI can be detected by visible imaging. Based on these results, a new direct-push probe (Dye-OIP) was designed based on Geoprobe's Optical Image Profiler (OIP), which was equipped with a fluorophore injection port below the OIP-unit. The injectant consisted of the redox active riboflavin mixed with the redox inactive fluorophore rhodamine WT, which fluoresces red and was used to verify that the mixture was indeed injected and detectable. Small scale experiments show that the fluorescence of this mixture in S-nZVI amended sand changes within 150 s from green with a hue of ~50 to red with a hue of ~30 when imaged with Dye-OIP. Tests of the Dye-OIP after a S-nZVI injection in a 1 m3 sized tank show that the tool could detect S-nZVI via fluorescence and visible imaging, when S-nZVI concentration was >0.2 mg per g dry sediment. Thus, these novel methods should be able to detect S-nZVI in the subsurface, without relying on infrastructure such as wells. Based on our results, the Dye-OIP could be further improved to make it suitable for regular use in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103896
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Contamination
  • Fluorescent tracer
  • Monitoring
  • Redox indicator
  • Vitamin B2
  • Zero valent iron detection

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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