Fully integrated 3D-printed electrochemical cell with a modified inkjet-printed Ag electrode for voltammetric nitrate analysis

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To address the need for low-cost analytical tools for on-site aquaculture water quality monitoring, miniaturized electrochemical sensor systems can be readily fabricated using additive manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and inkjet printing. In this work, we report the design and fabrication of an additively manufactured electrochemical platform featuring a reusable 3D-printed electrochemical cell with integrated reference and counter electrodes, and a replaceable inkjet-printed Ag (IJP-Ag) working electrode. The electrochemical cell was 3D-printed with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) filament and features a 3D-printed ABS-carbon counter electrode and a Ag|AgCl|gel-KCl reference electrode with a 3D-printed porous junction directly integrated along the sides of the sample compartment. The application of the integrated cell is demonstrated with the analysis of nitrate ions on the IJP-Ag electrode, which was modified with electrodeposited nanostructured Ag to enhance sensitivity to nitrate reduction. Linear sweep voltammetry (LSV) was successfully applied to detect nitrate with a LOD of 1.40 ppm and a sensitivity of 0.2086 μA ppm−1 in a background of artificial brackish aquaculture water (pH 8.0). The sensor response showed intra- and inter-electrode reproducibility and no significant interferences to most of the commonly encountered cations and anions in brackish water. The electrochemical sensor system was also applied to nitrate determination in real aquaculture water samples and demonstrated no significant differences with the results obtained using the standard spectrophotometric method at a 95% confidence level. Our results show how additive manufacturing is a promising approach to readily fabricate fit-for-purpose, low-cost miniaturized electrochemical sensor systems for point-of-use applications.