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TelLab wins major EU grant for water quality sensor

T.E. Laboratories (TelLab), an Irish SME, has won European grant funding in excess of €1 million to enable the rapid commercialisation of what it describes as a "disruptive, first-of-a-kind" water quality sensor for real-time monitoring of problematic nutrient pollutants in lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal zones.

This is the second major EU grant the project has received in past year. In addition, the device is being trialled by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as part of its Advanced Septic System Nitrogen Sensor Challenge.

The Aquamonitrix environmental sensor was developed at TelLab’s inhouse R&D lab in County Carlow, Ireland. TelLab said it represents a world-first in combining high accuracy and low cost for remote, near-continuous monitoring of multi-parameter nutrients in fresh, brackish and saltwater environments.

It allows regulators and emitters to remotely monitor water quality in real-time, providing an instantaneous alert to pollution breaches and enabling decision-makers to take immediate interventional action.

Mark Bowkett, the project coordinator and CEO of TelLab, said: “The funding will allow recent outputs from in-company R&D activities to be exploited fully in global markets with the aim of achieving first-to-market advantage.”

The Aquamonitrix device responds to growing regulatory demands for higher frequency monitoring of nitrate/nitrite, phosphate and ammonia nutrients emerging from wastewater treatment plants, industry, agriculture, fish farms and domestic septic tanks.

Such pollutants are increasingly being targeted by regulatory drivers in the US and Europe, as they feed microorganisms in water, accelerating their growth and potentially leading to toxic algae blooms, oxygen deprivation for competing aquatic species, and health risks for humans.

At present, the majority of monitoring is by "grab n’ lab" methods, which involve physically filling sample bottles and returning them to the laboratory for testing. This means that results often only become available after several days.

Moreover, they merely provide a snapshot of conditions at the moment when the sample was taken, potentially missing episodic pollution events.

TelLab secured the European funding through a Horizon 2020 measure known as the SME Instrument. This is designed to help small- and medium-sized companies to commercialise ground-breaking innovations, capable of disrupting or creating new markets worldwide.

With support from another EU grant, won last year through the LIFE programme, Aquamonitrix has been demonstrated in real-life environments in Finland, Ireland, Spain and New Zealand.

TelLab will use the commercialisation funding for final maturation and large-scale piloting of the prototype to ensure rapid market uptake.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish agency responsible for helping companies grow in world markets, has worked with TelLab along its R&D journey, most recently by providing support to help the company protect its intellectual property.

Sean Burke, Horizon2020 national contact point for SMEs in Enterprise Ireland, said: “Enterprise Ireland is delighted to see the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument being used by TelLab to commercialise an innovative new product for international markets and to create high-quality jobs in a regional location.”

Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Innovation , Wastewater quality
Tags: wastewater , nitrate pollution , phosphate pollution , ammonia , sensors

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