Optical sensors are a promising alternative to conventional analytical techniques for monitoring water quality in many natural and industrial environments. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include, as part of the Goal 6 on water and sanitation for all, a specific target to improve water quality. Consequently, improved water quality monitoring will be essential in the evaluation of progress towards the achievement of this SDG target.
Optical sensors are characterised by their high sensitivity, short response time, specificity, and relatively low production cost. In addition to these characteristics, they can perform continuous monitoring of water providing a real-time measurement of different analytes as heavy metals. Other important advantages of these sensors are their reduced size and the possibility to analyse different types of heavy metal ions at the same time.
The Basque SME has designed and manufactured an interferometric sensor based on optical fibre for the detection of heavy metal ions (copper and lead) in water. Preliminary tests indicate that the sensor can detect and quantify these heavy metals selectively on-site and in real-time. Its principle of operation is based on optical interference, which allows detecting concentrations in water as low as 0,000063 ppb. Furthermore, it is capable of doing it selectively and in less than a minute. Besides, the fact that it is based on optical fibre, makes the sensor a micrometric-scale size (125 µm).
The company seeks a partner to further develop and refine this technology in order to reach final TRL-7. For that purpose, the Basque SME seeks industrial partners (preferably water processing, water treatment plants or metal particles detection companies), R&D-institutions or labs (with access to operational installations) willing to reach a technological cooperation agreement bilaterally beneficial. On the one hand, the Spanish company will be able to validate its sensor’s current capabilities under real conditions enabling adjustments and technology improvements. On the other hand, installing the rapid on-site sensor for heavy metal ions detection in its facilities, the sought partner will be able to parameterize the solution to its own necessities through different tests while at the same time have access to real-time data which can help decision-making or be subject to further analysis.