07 March 2012

Bram van der Gaag: "A spongy nanomaterial may change the way to monitor water quality" - part 2

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Bram van der Gaag is a scientific researcher for "Monitoring and sensoring" at KWR and works on the project developing a nanomaterial aimed at monitoring water quality.

When a group of researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique (EP) in Palaiseau, near Paris, created a new nanomaterial-based sensor for monitoring heavy metals in drinking water, they had to address a crucial question: their prototype works well in the laboratory, but how will it perform in the real-world? Before they can foresee commercial applications, researchers need to be sure that their sensor can work and be accurate in actual applications, such as monitoring drinking waters, surface waters from a lake or river, or wastewaters from an industry. To resolve this issue, the French group found a suitable partner to test the technology developed at the EP and bring it to the market in the KWR Watercycle Research Institute, a Dutch company amongst others specialized in methods to ensure water quality. To this aim, KWR, the EP and other companies have formed a consortium and have recently applied for an EU grant.

Dr. van der Gaag, how did you get involved in this work?
The process was fairly straightforward. I was asked if we were interested in testing the technology that the EP had developed. I wanted to visit the EP before deciding, and when I saw their work I became convinced that it could work. It's an elegant solution, and you have immediate results, because you measure the metal concentrations right away on the sample. If it works, it may be a breakthrough for the water industry.

What kind of "real-life" testing are you planning to do?
We are planning to collaborate with some companies that routinely perform water monitoring in different environments. We will use the new sensor to monitor drinking- and surface- and waste waters at different times and in different situations. To verify the accuracy of data, we will compare the results from the sensor with that obtained with standard laboratory methods.

If this technology works, how do you think it may change the water industry?
This type of sensor may be an improvement for decentralized purification systems, since it is portable and gives real-time results. Decentralized systems are common in many countries such as India, for example. Eventually, manufacturers may want to embed these sensors in products such as boilers or coffee makers to check for water quality in real-time.
 

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