Due to industrialization and urbanization, heavy metals are found in trace elements everywhere. They are commonly found in the waste waters of industrial companies. Four of the major contributing industries are dye, pharmaceutical, paint and textile (Lokhande 2011). Some common heavy metals that have adverse effects are lead, cadmium,mercury, copper, chromium and zinc . These metals pose detrimental effects on both humans and animals. Copper, for example, is found to be the second most toxic metal for marine and aquatic animals (Vlascici 2013). The conventional methods used for the detection of heavy metals are mostly done in laboratories. This is because common techniques utilized for detection like UV–Vis spectrometry, high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) require hefty and expensive equipment. These types of equipment are harder to use in field setting (Vlascici 2013). This offers an inexpensive and portable alternative method of detection, and maximize the use of readily available resources.

Objectives of the Study

The study aims to develop a paper based electrode that can detect heavy metals. Specifically, it aims to:

  1. 1.

    Prepare nanolayers of polyaniline (PANI) coating to Cladophora cellulose

  2. 2.

    Fabricate a working electrode using the PANI coated cellulose.

  3. 3.

    Optimize the efficiency and accuracy of the fabricated electrode for detection of heavy metals.

Significance of the Study

There is a need for a cheap and rapid detection of heavy metals. This study offers a simple, inexpensive and portable way to detect heavy metals by fabricating an electrode from algae cellulose. Utilization of this algae, provides a better use for a water pollutant.


The study focuses on the creation of an electrode for heavy metal detection via anodic stripping voltammetry. The prepared Cladophora rupestris algae cellulose is coated with Polyaniline (emeraldine salt form) to create a composite. The Cladophora/PANI composite is used as the working electrode of a three electrode system. This study accounts for the electrode’s accuracy, precision and sensitivity towards the detection of heavy metals. Electrode sensitivity and accuracy will be in reference to an Atomic Absorption Spectrometer (AAS).The heavy metals that would be tested are copper (II) and lead (II). Detection of metals from actual waste water will not be done in this study.

Review of Related Literature¨

Industrial Wastes and Heavy Metals

Heavy metals pose a number of threats to humans and the environment. Common heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium are found to have no useful effects in biological organisms yet it is abundant in the environment. This is due to the fact that most heavy metals are commonly used as a starting material in many industries that eventually become waste when they lose their value (Commission 2002). Lead, mercury and cadmium are continuously produced in the industry and are three of the major heavy metal pollutants found in aquatic environments. Therefore, there is a need to detect trace levels of these metals.


Lead is commonly found in soil and dust. Lead has a wide array of effects toward the human body depending upon the amount and duration of exposure. It is most deterrent to kids because they are exposed to it more often and in more quantities. On an average, a kid is exposed to 5g lead/day due to consumption of dust or soil. This will then have adverse effects on their nervous system which may cause problems in learning and behavior(Commission 2002)