Partnering opportunity

Innovative magnetic proxy evaluation of soil pollution


A Bulgarian research unit has developed an innovative geophysical method for environmental screening and monitoring of soils that can be successfully used as a tool for achieving cost-effective environmental protection. It is applicable in forest and grassland ecosystems management. The research team is looking for commercial agreement with technical assistance, services agreement or research cooperation agreement with companies, R&D institutions and stakeholders.

Partner sought

The research team is looking for commercial agreement with technical assistance, services agreement or research cooperation agreement with interested stakeholders, private SMEs, non-governmental organisations and research organisations in order to introduce in practice, validate and commercialise the magnetic proxy method for assessment of soil contamination.


The research unit is the leading organisation in Bulgaria in the R&D of environmental screening and monitoring of soils with highly qualified and internationally recognised team. It conducts pioneering research in the application of various methods for evaluation of soil pollution. The institute has long-term experience in international collaboration and project implementation. Soil pollution can cause serious damages of existing ecosystems or at least restrict the possible use of land or water. An intensive control of the contamination and its further behaviour, transport or migration is necessary. These require generally a comprehensive monitoring network with suitable and evidence-based choice of regular sampling design for and chemical analysis. Magnetic proxy method for evaluation of soil contamination is suggested as innovative fast and cost efficient method for preliminary assessment of soil ecological status, which can be applied in both large-scale monitoring projects as well as local case-studies. Magnetic susceptibility (MS) is material’s property which reflects the degree of magnetisation of material when it is placed in a weak magnetic field. MS is a parameter which depends mostly on the concentration of strongly magnetic minerals in the measured medium. The properties of Fe oxides in soils are determined by intrinsic soil forming processes and their temporal changes. Recent anthropogenic contamination also influences significantly soils’ magnetic properties through enhancing their iron and other heavy metals content. Field MS measurements allow obtaining precise, fast and relatively low-cost data. Field measurement instrumentation has light weight, does not require special (heavy) transportation and is suited to be hand-held. Thus, MS can be measured in almost all field topographies. Presence of soil in- homogeneities is easily detected and could be averaged out or eliminated from the data set. MS method is “point” technique; it requires close contact between the sensor and the soil surface. According to the accepted methodology (at least 5 independent readings per spot), field MS measurement takes approximately 2 min per “point”. More time consuming is travelling along the designed measurement grid. Its density is not predefined and depends on the purpose of each specific study. It can vary from meters to kilometres. Field campaign can be carried out by at least 2 persons. They should have basic technical skills and knowledge of geophysics. Data processing is relatively fast since the data sets compiled during field MS measurements are not as big as the files, produces by techniques involving automatic semi-continuous measurements. Normally, several days are enough for processing of bigger grids. A second-stage technological step is laboratory-based additional magnetic and pilot non-magnetic analyses on soil samples for validation and in-depth elaboration of magnetic results. The proposed methodology can be successfully applied in small-scale, as well as large scale projects of governmental, as well as non-profit organisations, SMEs and other enterprises which need to satisfy national environmental regulations related to protection of soil ecosystem services. An international partnership through research cooperation agreements with R&D institutions, or commercial agreement with technical assistance or services agreements with public organisations for the application of the proposed technology, or international collaboration for standardisation of the methodology are sought.

Advantages and innovations

- Fast non-destructive field measurements with precise positioning - Does not cause damage to the soil cover by compaction - Allows cost-effective high resolution screening/monitoring of soils - Sensitive and precise detection of local variations of soil quality - Does not require lab sample preparation and use of toxic chemicals, which makes it a “green technology”

Development stage

Available for demonstration

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

Secret Know-how

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