This tiny and inexpensive device -built using a 3D printer- can be deployed anywhere in the water distribution system and even be used by individuals who want to monitor their own water supply
A team of researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Indian Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland and the University of California Berkeley has developed a highly portable sensor system that could revolutionize the water industry. The device is capable of constantly measuring several water quality parameters such as turbidity, pH, conductivity, temperature, and residual chlorine and can withstand intense water pressure levels. And because it is wireless, it can be installed at any point in a water distribution system, sending the collected data back to a central server. Its sensors work independently, meaning that if one stops functioning, it does not bring down the whole system, and are made via 3D printing, so they are fast, inexpensive and easy to produce.
â€œCurrent water safety practice involves only periodic hand testing, which limits sampling frequency and leads to a higher probability of disease outbreak,â€ says Professor Mina Hoorfar, head of the research team at UBCâ€™s School of Engineering. â€œTraditional water quality sensors have been too expensive and unreliable to use across an entire water system.â€ Most urban purification plants, although having real-time monitoring sensors, are upstream of the citywide distribution system, so any contamination occurring after the water has left the plant would not be detected. But with this new device, any pollutants or pathogens in water could be detected before it is consumed, as individuals would be able to monitor the quality of their drinking water as it comes out of the tap. In this way, tragedies like the Walkerton E.coli outbreak in 2000, when four people died and hundreds became ill after drinking E.coli-affected water, could be prevented.
Nevertheless, Professor Hoorfar hopes that this miniature sensor will have the greatest benefits in developing countries. â€œHere [in Canada], water contamination is not as big of a concern, but in the developing world, much of the drinking water is extracted from wellsâ€”and if any contaminants get into the well water, the entire water supply becomes contaminated,â€ she says. â€œI donâ€™t want this to be another innovation that just ends up sitting on the shelf. [The university] is looking to take this technology to the next level. UBC does not currently have the capability to mass-produce this technology, so we are looking for companies and investors to help us bring this technology to the world.â€, she added.
The research work was published last June in the science and technology journal Sensors, under the title â€˜3D Printing-Based Integrated Water Quality Sensing Systemâ€™ and was partly funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Strategic Project Grant and Postgraduate Scholarship funding.
Source: UBC Okanagan News