• Perla Tiburcio

Lead detector made by 11-year-old Colorado girl


Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old who lives in Flint Colorado, was awarded $25,000 for her invention “Tethys,” and given the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.“ Rao currently attends the STEM school at Highlands Ranch, Col.

Along with her money reward, she became a three-month tutor under Kathleen Shuter, a research specialist who develops new plastic technologies. Rao wanted to make a change in the water of the city of Flint and other cities that are having the same current problem with lead in their waters.

The idea for Rao’s device was sparked when her own parents were testing for lead in water at home. Rao wanted to make a device that would be able to detect and separate lead in water. Lead isn’t notable in the taste and smell of water; therefore, the process of finding lead is a difficult task. Testing strips can detect various contaminates and show fast results, but they doesn’t offer much accuracy.

Rao began by using test strips that took a variety of tries to get reliable conclusions. Currently, there are only two methods by which lead can be detected: by using testing strips or having a lab test. Instead, Rao’s “Tethys” uses carbon nanotubes to detect lead in water, which is quicker than using testing strips. The carbon nanotube is a microscopic device that contains a carbon nanotube sensor that attracts lead.

Rao is working on ways to improve the device using the money that she was awarded and is also planning to help her device become commercialized.

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