Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Groundwater sampling tool for accurate measurement of harmful aquifer sand and groundwater contaminants

Technology #m11-019

Accurate groundwater testing and aquifer sampling is key to preventing arsenic and other contaminants from entering drinking water. Current sampling systems are limited to comparisons of spatially distant groundwater and aquifer sand sources and suffer from inefficiency. This technology efficiently preserves aquifer sand and groundwater samples by freezing them in their naturally occurring spatial arrangements, allowing for an improved profile of contaminants in these respective constituents. It uses a Peltier effect sampler to maintain sample integrity.

Improves sample extraction through rapid freezing of the sample core, improving contaminant characterization and safety of drinking water.

This technology is a sampling tool that enables the simultaneous collection of aquifer sand and groundwater. Unlike current techniques, this technology allows for collection of samples with one coring device that preserves the spatial arrangement of aquifer sands and groundwater, an ability that greatly improves the understanding of groundwater contamination and arsenic release. Additionally, this sampling technology is compatible with a variety of existing platforms, allow for a seamless transition to this new extraction method.

Rapid freezing of a sample core approximately 40 cubic centimeters in volume has been estimated to require less than 6 minutes.

Lead Inventor:

Alexander van Geen, Ph.D.


  • Aquifer sampling to increase the safety of drinking water sources in developing countries.
  • Collection of deep ocean sediment samples for oil exploration.
  • Sediment and groundwater sampling in sites of natural gas exploration (e.g., hydraulic fracturing).
  • Exploration of oil sands petroleum deposits.


  • Pristine sample collection from a single extraction sight provides insight to the origin of aquifer contamination.
  • Peltier effect may freeze samples in under 6 minutes allows for improved process control and improved core acquisition rates.
  • Deployable on a variety of platforms, facilitation its incorporation into already available equipment.
  • Screw-on cutting tip of high alloy steel prevents damage associated with normal coring tips, thus preserving rock/water arrangement.

Patent information:

Patent Pending

Licensing Status:

Available for licensing and sponsored research support

Tech Ventures Reference: IR M11-019

Related Publications:

Patent No. 8,701,505