Water is essential for all forms of life on earth and, therefore, ensuring high water quality is of paramount importance. The supply of sufficient and sufficiently clean fresh water is under pressure worldwide, meaning that water purification and the monitoring of cleaning processes is crucial. The project AQUARIUS (Broadband Tunable QCL based Sensor for Online and Inline Detection of Contaminants in Water) addresses the development of a new generation of photonic sensing solution, in response to the need for pervasive sensing for a safer environment.

Contaminants are a challenge to the water sector

The supply of sufficient and clean freshwater is under pressure worldwide. However, freshwater is essential for human wellbeing and plays an important role in the world economy, its quality being regulated by national and international legislation. Whereas water is the most abundant substance on the Earth’s surface and essential for all forms of life and used in almost every industrial process, directly or indirectly, fresh water comprises only a small fraction of the total amount of water.

Therefore, ensuring good quality of this resource is paramount. The quality of fresh water can differ significantly. The variety and concentration of chemical species in the aquatic systems can be quite diversified, presenting a challenge in terms of both water purification strategies and water quality control. These contaminants are a challenge to the water sector. Thousands of these compounds are used every day and new ones are continually put on the market. Increasingly effective laboratory detection techniques are revealing the presence, in surface water for instance, of low concentrations of contaminants, whose presence was previously unknown.

To assure a safe environment, novel water monitoring technologies are needed for all types of water including process water, waste water, sewage as well as drinking water. These new technologies shall enable pervasive water monitoring which can replace and compliment currently employed laboratory based offline methods by online or inline monitoring strategies.

Key objectives of AQUARIUS

The following key objectives will be addressed by AQUARIUS:

  1. Enhancement of broadband tunable quantum cascade lasers in terms of spectral coverage and noise ;
  2. Realisation of a fully functional spectrometer sub-system consisting of a μEC-QCL and a fast MCT detector including data acquisition;
  3. Advance oil-in-water monitoring capabilities from offline (state-of-the-art) to online;
  4. Test of the online oil-in-water system at industrial end users;
  5. Realisation of integrated optical circuits (IOCs) for waveguide based sensing and inline capable sensing configuration;
  6. Assembly and test of the inline oil-in-water system in a laboratory environment.

Mission of AQUARIUS

AQUARIUS will provide an on- and inline capable mid-IR sensing solution to meet legal provisions for industrial waste water and drinking water monitoring. Significant enhancement in sensitivity will be achieved by further advancement of the laser source and the detector as well as an innovative combination of sample extraction and preparation with polymer functionalized waveguides. The AQUARIUS sensing solution will be developed along the entire value chain towards integration in industrially proven online devices for water control driven by strong industrial commitment in the consortium.

Representatives of 8 different partners from 5 different European countries participated in the AQUARIUS kick-off meeting which took place from 17th – 18th January 2017 at OMV’s premises in Vienna.

Podcast: AQUARIUS (3) H2020 Project: Testing the Sensor Prototype

In this episode, we continue to learn more about the Aquarius Project. We speak with Joep van den Broeke from project partner KWR. KWR is a research institute in the Netherlands serving the Dutch drinking water utilities. Joep and his team are currently in the process of evaluating the sensor that has come out of Aquarius.


European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 731465