Simple, affordable water-testing system earns McMaster University graduate 2019 Colton Medal

November 4, 2019: A sustainable solution to a global problem has earned Dr. Yiheng Qin this year’s Douglas R. Colton Medal for Research Excellence.

His research into nanofabrication of novel materials led to the development of low-cost, real-time, portable technologies for water quality monitoring, particularly in low-resource communities and undeveloped countries. It’s estimated that life-threatening diseases caused by contaminated drinking water affect more than 1.5 billion people every year.

Dr. Qin’s electro-chemical innovations include highly sensitive, rapid-response sensors for measuring pH, free chlorine, and temperature – key indicators of water quality — and an integrated water monitoring system for assessing and testing water quality.

Key to his designs was using readily available, affordable materials and making the devices user-friendly so that they can be both manufactured and operated locally. For example, his chlorine sensors are based on graphite found in pencil leads, and sensors can be produced using an inkjet printer. 

The commercial potential of his work attracted industrial collaborators Xerox Canada, Voltek Energy Inc., KIK Custom Products Inc. and biomedical giant ChroMedX Ltd.

“Dr. Qin’s work offers an accessible alternative to standard monitoring systems, which are expensive and complicated,” says Gordon Harling, President & CEO of CMC Microsystems. “Using a unique combination of electronics, materials and chemical and mechanical engineering expertise, he has developed critically needed technology with applications around the world. We are delighted to honour him with this award.”

A graduate of McMaster University, Dr. Qin studied in the Micro and Nano Systems Laboratory of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering under the supervision of Dr. M Jamal Deen, receiving his PhD in 2017. He has 17 peer-reviewed publications and 17 conference publications and is a named inventor on four U.S. patent applications. He is currently a senior R&D engineer with ExVivo Labs Inc. of Kitchener, ON, where he is developing next-generation medical diagnostic tools.

Gord Harling
President & CEO
P: +1. 613. 449. 6820

About this award:
Established in 1994 in honour of the founding president of CMC Microsystems, the Douglas R. Colton Medal recognizes excellence in research leading to new understanding and novel developments in microsystems and related technologies, or the application of microsystems and related technologies in Canada. The annual award includes a medal and a monetary prize of $4,500.

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