Recent developments in sensing methods for eutrophying nutrients with a focus on automation for environmental applications
The demand for autonomous sensors for unattended, continuous nutrient monitoring in water is rapidly growing with the increasing need for more frequent and widespread environmental pollution monitoring. Legislative bodies, local authorities and industries all require frequent water quality monitoring, however, this is time and labour intensive, and an expensive undertaking. Autonomous sensors allow for frequent, unattended data collection. While this solves the time and labour intensive aspects of water monitoring, sensors can be very expensive. Development of low-cost sensors is essential to realise the concept of Internet of Things (IoT). However there is much work yet to be done in this field. This article reviews current literature on the research and development efforts towards deployable autonomous sensors for phosphorus (in the form of phosphate) and nitrogen (in the form of nitrate), with a focus on analytical performance and cost considerations. Additionally, some recent sensing approaches that could be automated in the future are included, along with an overview of approaches to monitoring both nutrients. These approaches are compared with standard laboratory methods and also with commercially available sensors for both phosphate and nitrate. Application of nutrient sensors in agriculture is discussed as an example of how sensor networks can provide improvements in decision making.