Next generation autonomous analytical platforms for remote environmental monitoring
Ziółkowski, Bartosz and Fraser, Kevin J. and Byrne, Robert and Benito-Lopez, Fernando (2011) Next generation autonomous analytical platforms for remote environmental monitoring. In: Science Passion Mission Responsibilities: Marie Curie Researchers Symposium, 24th - 27th Sep 2011, Warsaw, Poland.
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The Marie Curie ATWARM (Advanced Technologies for Water Management) project aims at the development of technologies to treat and manage drinking water. Within the ATWARM project there are 16 scientist working on different technologie aspects and processes to clean water from pollutants. In order to successfully treat water one needs reliable and rapid information on the environment state and potential alarming events. This information needs to be available in real time. Utilizing wireless sensor networks is the key to obtaining such monitoring capabilities. In the ideal case, information is gathered by the remote sensors and transmitted to headquarters for analysis. Unfortunately, such devices that are available today are big, very expensive and need frequent maintenance. Therefore they are not suitable for large scale and remote deployment. In order to be able to build cheap, robust and autonomous sensors one needs to develop smart materials. These materials are capable of reacting to an external stimulus and perform their given task. Current research involves polymers that bend or actuate reversibly after irridation with light or in some cases after applying magnetic fields. Fluidic sensors (required in every type of water analysis) incorporating such material in a form of pumps and valves would require minimum power. The light can come from an inexpensive, low power drain LED diode and magnetic fields from permanent magnets.
The sensor system already developed at the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR), Dublin City University is capable of sampling, managing chemical reactants required for the chemical analysis, performing the analysis with light emitting diodes and transmitting the information through wireless means to the controller unit. However it is still quite bulky, batteries lasts for 2 weeks and the manufacturing cost is still high for mass deployment. By using the described smart materials this device is expected to function for up to 6 months without maintenance and projected costs are estimated at less than 100 euro.
This research brings together scientists from fields such as computer science, electronics, engineering, chemistry and material science. Working in such an environment is greatly improving one’s interdisciplinary skills and team spirit along with innovative thinking necessary when applying fundamental science in functional devices such as sensors. This research is a great opportunity and adventure for the involved people but also the technology being developed will greatly enhance our environment monitoring capabilities. Efficient and successful environment protection and successful water management is important in all aspects of life.
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