Team:OSA/Human Practices


After verifying the feasibility of the theories used in our project in dry lab, our focus shifted to identifying public demands and applicating scenarios of our project. With the goal of designing a sensitive, accurate and simple heavy metal ion detection kit, our HP team aims to assist on creating a product that is both helpful to industries and the general population. In order to reach this goal, the HP team was divided into 3 stages:

1. Costumer demand research (Is there a demand?)

2. What kind of demand is there?

3. Project modification according to the demand.

In the first stage of our journey, we set out a questionnaire, aiming to see if there is a public demand for our planned product. Next, we interviewed a number of industries to see if there is an industrial demand for our product. With the help of these social connections, we are able to identify stake holder's needs and are therefore able to modify our products according to these needs.

In the second stage, we interviewed multiple experts within the environmental protection industry. By doing this, we gained a broader perspective of the prospect and goals we need to reach in order to make our product practical towards our customers.

1.Questionnaire--Stage 1

The first stage of our market research is targeted at the general public. We are interested in 2 things: a) Do they believe heavy metal pollution is an issue that needs to be addressed? b) How popular would a heavy-metal detection product be among the public? With these 2 goals in mind, we designed a set of questions that would help us determine whether or not our product has a costumer demand. The questionnaire is being sent out to the public via wechat links and paper works, and we gathered a total number of 207 responses.

Q1: How old are you?

Fig 3.1.1 Public's age distribution

Q2: What is your education background (including current study)?

Fig 3.1.2 Public's education background

Q3: What do you know about synthetic biology?

Fig 3.1.3 Public's knowledge of syntheic biology

Q4: What do you think is the most important factor in detecting heavy metal ions?

Fig 3.1.4 Public's opinion on the most important factor in detecting heavy metal ions

Q5: How would you evaluate a synthetic biology product if it were introduced to the market on a large scale?

Fig 3.1.5 Public's reaction towards our product


We believe the public is one of the main stakeholders in the process of developing our product. Approximately 40% of the people we have interviewed stated that they would actively try our product when it is on the market, and only 15 % of the people neglects it. While the majority of our customers are around the age of 25-40, 41% of them believe that accuracy is the most important factor for developing a good heavy metal detection. Thus indicating that our product has a large market for the public, and that people values the accuracy of our product more. However, this conclusion is only limited to people living in Shanghai China, our data would need further investigation to give a more accurate and reliable conclusion that could be applied to the world.

data record:2020 OSA调研统计.xlsx

2.Shanghai Gaopu Environmental Protection Technology Co., LTD ---stage 1

Shanghai Gaopu Environmental Protection Technology Co., LTD is a company specialized in the research, development, production and sales of Marine exhaust emission purification equipment. Knowing this, we hope to gain a general knowledge of the heavy metal emission in air and at sea, and to see where our product can be applied in this process.

1.We know that you are an expert in the field of Marine environment and protection. What is the current status of the control of heavy metal ions in Marine management? We asked because we know land water regulation is currently very strict.

Frankly, the control of heavy metal ions at sea is not as strict as that on land. The emission requirements of heavy metal ions are not quantified because they are not emitted in large quantities in the ocean, as compared to sulfur and carbon. There are also no regulations issued by the IMO on the requirements for the discharge of heavy metal ions at sea. After all, from a practical point of view, the standards need to conform to the situation of the industry. Moreover, the maritime industry is relatively an ancient industry; its testing standards, as well as its various corresponding equipment, has been used for decades. Therefore people are getting used to it and a pattern is already formed. However, I personally believe that in the next few years, with the update of technology and the popularization of environmental awareness, more attention will be paid to the control of heavy metal ions at sea, and relevant standards will surely be introduced.

2.Do you think detection methods developed by students like us would help or influence the current heavy metal regulation?

I personally think the impact will be huge. There are a total of 90,000 old ships in operation around the world, and most of these ships are manufactured according to old environmental protection concepts and old standards. Although the emission of heavy metal ions from individual ships isn’t large, the actual amount of pollution emitted by all ships every day is huge. Therefore, I think it is necessary to limit it. But from an industrial perspective, if we want to limit the emission of heavy metal ions, the first thing we need to do is to raise public awareness and develop standards. Once the standards are set, it is then a matter of by what ways can we meet these standards, which is usually through the development and application of new technologies. The final step is to test for compliance, which is what your project is doing right now. To sum up, by setting indicators, improving design and strengthening inspection, we can promote and trigger industrial upgrading.

Fig 3.1.6 Hong Qiao Stall Promotion


From this interview, we learned that the current restriction of heavy metal ions at sea is not as strict as that on land. The emission requirements of heavy metal ions are not quantified because they are not emitted in large quantities in the ocean, as compared to sulfur and carbon. And there are also no regulations issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). However, Mr.Zhu made it clear that he believe in the next few years, with the update of technology and the popularization of environmental awareness, more attention will be paid to the control of heavy metal ions at sea, and relevant standards will surely be introduced. Therefore the impact of our heavy metal detection technology would be huge. He mentioned that by setting indicators, improving design and strengthening inspection, we can promote and trigger industrial upgrading.

3.b-ONE---stage 1:

b-ONE is a global medical device company specializing in artificial joints. In order to be acquainted with heavy metal regulation on land, we attended a field visit to the su-zhou factory where their product was being processed. During the course of this visit, we also hope to explore the on-land application of our product.

Q: Would the product be contaminated by heavy metal ions during production process?

A: Our products use metal alloys that have been proven to be harmless to humans over the years. The alloy itself does not contain heavy metal materials, so in principle heavy metal ions will not be released during the processing. However, some special processes in the production process may introduce heavy metals, such as the electrolytic polishing process. Some heavy metal ions may be dissolved in the reaction solution during the electrolytic polishing of the component parts. Due to the risk of waste water being contaminated by heavy metal ions, and the fact that such enterprises are not allowed around Taihu Lake, the requirement for waste-water regulation standard is relatively high. Therefore most enterprises will entrust a 3rd party enterprises to complete this wastewater dispose process. The final product also requires additional processing after it is shipped back. In order to prevent heavy metal ion residue on the surface of metal parts, we will use special cleaning solution to carry out ultrasonic cleaning and the wastewater would be collected for subsequent treatment.

Q: What are the specific protective measures after the product is taken back to the factory? What happens to the waste water generated by the protective measures?

A: In order to ensure that there is no heavy metal residue in the product, the product will go into 4 cleaning tanks in total. The first two will be washed, the second two will be treated with hot water. When the cleaning solution is used for a certain number of times, the cleaning machine will automatically replace the cleaning solution, and when the used cleaning solution reaches a certain level, the water in each tank will be automatically recycled and replaced. The waste water would then be automatically collected by machines through the factory's pipes into special buckets. This slop bucket has a special storage site in the factory, which is separate from other waste water. However, we will not test or treat these waste water, because this process requires special environmental assessment certification. Generally, there are not many enterprises with such qualification, so our company also entrusts a qualified third-party enterprise to handle this waste water. When a certain amount of waste water is collected, we will inform the qualified enterprise and they will send special vehicles to recycle the waste water and bring it back to the professional treatment plant for harmless treatment.


In conclusion, we learned that heavy metal regulation on land is an extremely important process. It is being rigorously inspected and examined both by the government and local officials, therefore only industries that have the qualification from the government have the right to detect and process heavy metal ions. Therefore, there isn't much industrial demand for companies like b-ONE since this standardized heavy-metal regulation process was usually accomplished by a 3rd party enterprise.

4.Jiangsu Nanzi Environmental Protection Co. LTD---Stage 2

The company is a high-tech environmental protection company integrating environmental protection technology research and development. The company's main business is sewage (mud) treatment services and related treatment equipment research and development, production and sales.

Q: We know that your company will classify the waste water according to the composition of the waste water after it is collected. It is possible for you to explain how the company would check the substances in the waste water? What are the classification criteria? Is there a fixed industry standard?

A: If the water in the workshop contains heavy metals, the manufacturer will be asked to deal with it first, and then it would be further processed by our company. We would usually treat water that includes heavy metal ions separately with other wastewaters. When heavy metals are mixed with other water sources, the concentration of heavy metal ion drops and therefore would effect the reliability of the indicators.

Companies like us would usually use national standards to test the water sample, and would also use appointed methods both to treat and test water samples.

However, I must confess there is a limitation of this standard: many of them are from the last century and since most enterprises can't afford buying a new set of water treatment devices, enterprises are not necessarily willing to invest this money. Therefore the common method is spectrophotometry, which to some extent is unreliable because the organic matter/pigments in the wastewater can interfere with the testing.


During the course of this interview, we concluded that our product may be applied to internal testing within enterprises. The fact that there is a limitation for the current regulation technique provides our product a chance to be involved in the verification stage of heavy metal regulation. However, the existence of this verification stage largely depends on the will of the company, therefore the market and need for our product for industries might be limited.

5. Lejieshi Environmental Technology Co., LTD---Stage 2

Lejieshi Environmental Technology Co., LTD mainly focuses on disposing solid and dangerous waste. Before the interview with this company, our experience already has a preliminary result. Therefore, the purpose of consultation for us is to get a better understanding of the whole market: where our product will be applied, or what types of challenge will we confront. Previously, our product was designed to test the heavy metal (Zinc and Copper) only in water. However, by asking experts in the company, we noticed that there are actually more heavy metal ions in the soil instead of water. For example, manganese and lead, both of the heavy metal ions exist in soil and are mostly from industrial pollution. The current situation is that there are plenty of industrial sites transferring into housing lands, which allows the ions enter people’s daily lives and maybe causes a negative impact to them.

As a conclusion, we decided to have an additional experiment on detecting the heavy metal ions in soil. Moreover, we shifted our target population to individuals consumers who have the need and ability to buy the product instead of factories, because our product has the pros of fast and convenience but not precision that factories need. Thus, we are now using test strips as our final production.

Fig 3.1.7 Lejieshi Environmental Technology Interview

6. Mr.Long---stage 3:

Mr. Long is the Co-chairman of Oriental Low-carbon Corporation, Professor of Huadong Shifan University, Doctor of Resources and Environment, first Director of China Real Estate Evaluation Center, Director of Energy-saving and Environmental Protection Committee of Shanghai Building Science and Technology Research Association.

Q: We know that Mr.Long's company is engaged in green energy. Do you have any difficulties in promoting it? Since our current project is also related to environmental protection (detecting heavy metal ions), we would like to know the public's opinion on environmental protection products.

A: I have to admit that the promotion process is difficult. For instance, we signed a five years contract with Jingmao building in Shanghai last year, changing their lights to energy saving lights. However, the additional money they saved by using less energy is not really a moderate amount. And bare in mind the construction process would also more or less affect normal operation of the company. Therefore it's very difficult for companies to consider green products purely from an economic point of view.

Q: The environmental protection industry chain actually includes many steps, from the formulation of standards, to testing, to the development of products, implementation and so on. Which step do you think is the most critical? Or do they actually complement each other. A: Instead of separating them in steps, I would say there are three factors that play an important role when designing and promoting a new environmentally friendly product. First, you need to ensure you have the support from both the financial sector and the government of the country. It is important that government officials and related industries support the promotion of your product, especially for heavy metal detection. Secondly, you need to have humanistic care. It is important to bare in mind stakeholder and customor's benefit and how your product is useful to the whole society. Thirdly, it is crucial to have a technological advance or innovation. The integration of artificial intelligence technology and Internet of Things in practical application is essential.

Q: As your company is at the forefront of low-carbon, energy saving and environmental protection, from a professional perspective, what other important environmental problems do you think need to be solved in the world?

Q: As your company is at the forefront of low-carbon, energy saving and environmental protection, from a professional perspective, what other important environmental problems do you think need to be solved in the world?

A: I believe the prospect of environmental protection would lie in 2 areas:

1) Problems that directly lead to persecution, like water sewage, polluted air

2) Problems that are getting more severe, in this case it might be global warming

6.Testing result in soil---stage 3

After we have decided to have an additional experiment on detecting the heavy metal ions in soil, we started our experiment to verify the practicability of heavy metal detection in soil. We first digged some soil samples from our flowerpot in the laboratory. After we have dried the soil, we started to prepare aqueous solution of zinc ions and poured it into the soil. After mixing the two, we dried the soil and added water into the soil to form the soil solution. After filtering it by centrifugation, we add the heavy metal soil solution into the HTDC system. Despite several attempts and hard workings, we are still unable to apply our detection system in a soil base. The failure of the experiment may be due to the existence of unknown impurities in the soil solution and the imperfection of our filtration method.