One of the targets in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals states that, by 2030, we should:
“improve water quality by reducing pollution[...], halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally.”
In order to reach that goal, regular water quality checks are essential. In addition, they enable more cost-effective agricultural approaches.
Water quality varies greatly in time and location. Which is why manual samplings, combined with lab analyses, are less than ideal. They’re too expensive and time-consuming to be administered with the required granularity and frequency.
Automatic measurements would allow for continuous water quality monitoring. However, the development of such a system is hampered by current technology. Most fluid sensors today are:
- relatively large
- restricted to one specific parameter of water quality
What we need are sensors that are small, durable, accurate and affordable. By leveraging its knowledge in nano- and digital technology, imec has developed on-chip fluid sensors that meet these criteria.
Cost-effective water quality probes enable continuous monitoring
Through system-on-chip integration, imec has developed the technology for a water quality probe that:
- is smaller than 1 cm2
- needs only one automatic calibration
- can simultaneously measure several parameters: pH, ions such as chloride and sodium, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, ...
The electrochemical sensors transduce these measurements into electrical signals that can be wirelessly transmitted. This enables an IoT set-up of networked sensors that’s the core of a continuous water quality monitoring system.
Continuous monitoring enables smart water management
Due to processes such as climate change and salinization, clean water is becoming a scarce commodity. In order to guarantee universal access to safe drinking and swimming water, we need more intelligent management of water supplies.
Imec’s wireless on-chip fluid sensors are ideal for cost-effective distribution in systems of surface water, groundwater and treated domestic wastewater. The data they collect can then be combined with other data sources and processed on a cloud platform.
Such a digital water management system allows water companies to:
- monitor the quality of their water reserves in real time
- predict the evolutions of the water reserves
- act proactively to better align water reserves with demands
Together with partners from the Flemish water sector, imec is already testing such a large-scale water management system: the Internet of Water.
Water monitoring applications in agriculture
How can we feed more people without further depleting our natural resources? One of the answers is precision farming: boosting productivity by carefully controlling growth processes of plants and animals.
For instance, farmers will be able to use imec’s continuous water monitoring technology to gather highly localized information about nutrients in feed and drain water. They will then adapt their processes – minimizing waste, maximizing yields.
Work with us
Want to set up your continuous water quality monitoring system? Imec helps your development of:
- water quality probes based on our on-chip fluid sensor platform
- data analytics to translate measurements into visualizations and actionable insights