What technology are you using?
Q: Brief overview of the technology you are using?
A: We fabricate novel sensors from two-dimensional (2D) materials such as graphene and transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) to enable ultra-sensitive real-time water quality monitoring. Additionally, we develop new types of hardware and software including wateproof underwater modems and open-architecture protocols to address underwater wireless connectivity issues and enable three-dimensional (3D) water sampling. MicroBuoy holds two (2) patents on nanomaterials sensor fabrication and ExtremeComms Lab holds a provisional patent for high rate underwater acoustic communications.
Q: How does this technology advance the field/process of detection?
A: The proposed integrated platform for communication and sensing enables real-time monitoring of pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, heavy metals and pesticides at multiple underwater depths. We leverage electrochemical techniques to develop ultra-sensitive, field-effect-transistor (FET)-based sensors that can accurately detect excess contaminant concentrations in the water. Sensors are integrated to in-house fabricated biocompatible microbatteries and low-power software-defined modems with both terrestrial and underwater wireless networking capabilities.
Q: What innovations are you bringing to the sensor technology? Network technology? Data analytics?
A: Existing solutions for water quality assessment rely on either stationary/fixed quality monitoring techniques (i.e. lab-grade equipment) or surface-floating buoys that operate in a standalone mode and can sample the water column at fixed depths. Our platform leverages novel underwater wireless communication techniques and pioneering developments in nanomaterial sensor and battery fabrication to create the first underwater Wi-Fi network of aquatic sensors for continuous water quality monitoring.
Q: What has been an unexpected technological issue that you had to face?
A: Problems in interfacing our platform with a commercially available, hardware-defined LoRa gateway were unexpected. The organizers quickly replaced the hardware and helped us with the configuration of the new device. Bad weather conditions during our first deployment have also helped us refine the packaging designs for both the sensors and the wireless communication units.
What brought you to the Internet of H2O challenge (besides the prize money)?A: The Internet of H2O challenge offers a good platform for starting partnerships between teams with diverse backgrounds and expertise in sensor, wireless networking, and data analytics. Microbuoy and ExtremeComms Lab (the two top Eriehack finalist teams) used the partnership opportunity toward accelerating the first deployment of a complete integrated software-defined sensing and networking platform for continuous nutrient monitoring in Lake Erie.
Reflection on the pilot:
Q: What do you hope to learn about your technology during this pilot?
A: Field deployment and experiments in the Sandusky Bay helped us validate the sensing and networking performance of our platforms in real-world conditions.
Q: What have you learnt already after your deployment? If there were issues during your deployment, how do you plan to mitigate them?Q: What benefits has this challenge offered regarding the refinement of your product / services?
A: Designing, engineering and testing the platform’s waterproof enclosure was one of the biggest challenges. Particularly, we designed and developed a three-stage fine-porous membrane to protect the sensor housing from particulate matter and floating debris. Finally, individual assessment and calibration of sensing, communication and networking components, prior to final integration, was conducted in a lab-controlled environment.
A: During the competition we received valuable comments related to our value proposition that helped us refine the project presentation. Furthermore, meeting with researchers from both academia and industry with long-term experience in similar projects helped us identify the key challenges and opportunities in water quality monitoring.
Overall, how has the experience been working in this project and with the Internet of H2O Organizing team?
A: We had the opportunity to participate in meetings with water researchers, technologists, data analytics and IoT networking experts and received valuable comments and feedback in all aspects of the project. The Internet of H2O organizing team nurtured our collaboration efforts, supported our pilot deployment at the Sandusky bay and introduced us to faculty and researchers with prior experience in field testing at Lake Erie.
What do you hope will happen after the competition is over?
A: We plan to continue our partnership and work toward commercialization of a self- reconfigurable platform for next-generation sensing, communication and networking to protect Lake Erie and other bodies of water.
What would you say to other cities that are trying to do projects like this?
A: It is important to encourage similar projects in other cities. We believe that engaging people from diverse scientific backgrounds and embracing collaborations are vital for producing innovative solutions with societal impact. It is in both teams’ interest to promote and evaluate the proposed sensing and networking technologies at a global scale. To that end, we propose to reach out to water alliances and ecosystems in other cities that are interested in adopting our real-time nutrient monitoring solutions.