Bridging worlds: from macro and micro scale to prototype and product
Coleman, Simon and Diamond, Dermot (2014) Bridging worlds: from macro and micro scale to prototype and product. In: th International Symposium On Macro- and Supramolecular Architectures and Materials (MAM 14), 23-27 Nov 2014, Johannesburg, South Africa.
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Existing platforms for monitoring of nutrient levels (e.g.; phosphates, nitrates) and pathogens such as E. coli in water bodies are often prohibitively expensive (>€20k) due to the use of conventional sample/liquid handling which results in bulky, power hungry and labour intensive (servicing and maintenance) devices. As a consequence, this results in monitoring strategies that suffer from a lack of sampling frequency and deployment scale and thus a decrease in the overall effectiveness of such platforms. To address these challenges, the NAPES project intends to develop a low cost, autonomous system for environmental sensing in the aqueous environment. Additionally, this project will act as a hub for the development of advances in materials science, chemical and biological analysis and detection systems while revolutionizing the current design of deployable environmental sensing platforms. The eventual goal is to create a commercially viable system, implementing new technologies that not only improve the sensitivity and efficiency of the platform but also drive down their unit cost by orders of magnitude so that such technology becomes accessible to wider markets and demographics (e.g developing countries, non-commercial entities).
To achieve this, the project brings together 8 partners with unique strengths that, when combined, will result in an innovative commercial platform. Our project’s core research strategies involve implementation of novel materials science to develop advanced fluid handling and microscale mechanics such as polymer valves and channel coatings (Dublin City University and Technical University Eindhoven) and their microfluidic applications (CIC Microgune) as well as the use of microfluidic platforms for size/cost reduction of analytical devices and integration of electronics. Advances in analytical platforms will be addressed using cutting edge detection methods based upon antibody functionalised magnetic beads and spot/film coated refractive index matched polymer surfaces (Aquila Biosciences, Insitiut Curie and University of Milan) for highly specific detection of pathogens and other non-desirable contaminants (e.g surfactants).
With design and innovation in mind, the NAPES project uniquely addresses the often-overlooked challenge of bridging the macro and microscale environments. The ability to gain a truly representative sample from large water bodies can present a problem as quite often the volume difference of the sample source and the analytical sample can be orders of magnitude different. Through the design and implementation of a specialised pre-concentration and filtration process, the ability to sample vastly greater sample volumes and convert them into volumes compatible with microscale sensing is being developed and as such are a unique aspect to our platform.
The commercial exploitation and business development aspects of the platform will be illustrated by describing the prototype development, deployment and subsequent productisation and upscaling of final platform design with two of our commercial partners TE Laboratories and Williams Industrial Services. A very important aspect of success of this project is the combination of novel research advances in chemistry, biology and engineering for the development of a real product with marketable potential.
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