November 28th- 29th 2017
DCU and University South Australia discuss sensing technologies
The presence of established channels that allow effective communication, stable partnerships and large networks between academics enables the flow of critical information among them. Such networking and cooperation are extremely valuable for sharing information on new approaches and resources but also acquiring (UniSA) specialised and new expertise. The increase in international university collaborations can be seen in the fact that 1 in 5 world research papers are co-authored internationally. The importance of these collaborations can be seen by Dublin City University (DCU) and University of South Australia (UniSA) which was expressed at a sensor workshop held in DCU at the end of November, 2017.
DCU and UniSA are both young universities with a lot of innovative research being carried out in both institutions. It was seen that the facilities provided by both universities were complimentary which would give a great opportunities for both universities to take advantage of each-others facilities. It was clear from the discussions how the two universities complimented each other and could strongly see the two universities working together going forward in the future.
Water sensing is a theme along with fundamental materials development and device manufacture.
Prof. Fiona Regan, director of the Water Institute (WI) opened the two day event by welcoming members from both DCU and UniSA. Fiona spoke about the work which the WI has completed to date, current projects and gave an insight as to where she hopes to see the WI in the future. Followed by Fiona was Prof. Robert Forster who is the director of the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR).
Robert gave a welcome to all attendees on behalf of the NCSR and spoke about the current projects in the NCSR such as biofouling techniques, remote video sensing, separation methods and microfluidics. Robert continued on to introduce each of the PI’s involved in the NCSR and there area of expertise. Prof. Christopher Saint proceeded to give a presentation on UNISA and spoke about the facilities they have across their various campuses. He spoke about the importance of water, energy and water reuse. He highlighted how UniSA are helping to overcome the water drought which occurs in South Australia in very hot conditions.
UniSA and DCU recently signed an agreement to collaborate on research……..
This agreement will provide mechanisms by which students and staff can take part in exchanges at both institutions to develop a sensing cluster.
Chemical and Biological Sensors
Dr. Aoife Morrin works in the field of electroanalytical device development for environmental and biomedical sensing applications. Some of Aoife’s most recent work includes screenprinted tattoo sensor towards the non-invasive assessment of the skin barrier, inducing macroporosity in hydrogels using hydrogen peroxide, electro-stimulated release from a reduced graphene oxide composite hydrogel and impedimetric transduction of swelling in pHresponsive hydrogels.
In her presentation, she introduced these projects and spoke about the mechanisms of how they work. She described the advantages such as how hydrogel binds easily to the electrode substrate with great potential for specific biosensor design.
Prof. Robert Forster’s research focuses on electro chemistry. Robert spoke about his various projects which all mostly relate to sensors. The various projects include the development of an ultrasensitive electrochemical biosensor which is capable of detecting low concentrations of target toxins in complex media. He spoke about the relationship between miRNA and epilepsy which he hopes to develop wireless electrochemical sensors which can detect and analyse the miRNA for parallel electrode applications. The final project which Robert spoke about was about wireless destruction of biopharmaceuticals in water. This can be achieved by detecting a wireless generation of lights inside samples which can be detected by photoelectrocatalytics in turbid media for waste water treatment. Once the samples are detected they can then be removed.
Water Monitoring Sensors
Prof. Fiona Regan’s research focuses on environmental monitoring and she has special interest in priority and emerging contaminants as well as the establishment of decision support tools for environmental monitoring using novel technologies and data management tools. Her work includes the areas of separations and sensors (including microfluidics), materials for sensing and antifouling applications on aquatic deployed systems. Prof. Regan presented her work on In situ detection and quantification of E.Coli. Research on E. Coli detection showed that it took up to 18-72 hours to detect and quantify E. Coli. The ColiSense system is a sensitive purpose built fluorescence detection and incubation system with three sample chambers for triplicate analysis. When combined with an efficient enzyme extraction protocol and a continuous assay, it provided a sensitive and rapid method of on-site analysis of surface waters for presence of E. coli. This method only takes 75 minutes to prepare samples, analyse them and detect them. There was good performance seen between the results obtained in the original method which took 18-72 hours and the coli sense.
Dr. Blanaid White spoke about a number of projects which have just began in her research group. These projects involve the Monitool project, Farm-ECOS and Impact. Monitool aims to use passive sampling to detect contaminants in marine sediments all around Europe. It is aimed that the findings from the project will then be later used to change EU regulations. There is a variety of partners in this project one of which being a partner from Italy (Mediterranean area) to provide regional data for more European EQS consistency. It is hoped that this Italian partner will be able give a wide knowledge of expertise after working on the Costa Concordia Wreck sink which resulted in a huge contamination in Italy waters. The monitool project will look at Ag, Al, Cr, Co, Cu,Fe, Mn, Zn and V by analysis of ICP. Another project which is being carried out by Blanaids group is the Farm-ECOS project which uses farming and natural resources to measure for ecological sustainability. The project is led by Teagasc and Blanaids research is focusing on soil health by carrying out physical chemical analysis on the pH, organic matter, texture and nutrients. The microbial composition will also be analysed by looking at biomass, microbial activity and PLFA biomarkers. A new project which is set to start in 2018 by Blanaids group is called Impact. This project is to monitor contaminates of emerging concern for Ireland and to prioritise them. The matrix analysed will be waste water and samples are been taken from rivers in Barcelona, London and Ireland.
Prof. Christopher Chow of UniSA has been involved in a number of major industrial water treatment and distribution system related research projects. More recently he is working on data visualisation and data analytics to improve treatment plant performance using online monitoring systems. Prof. Chow gave a presentation on his work in online monitoring developments in Australian water industry. From this project they hope to gain a better understanding of stormwater monitoring and how storm water can cause environmental pollutants in the water. A s::can is placed in the stormwater pipes leading from the middle of the town towards the river(drinking water source). Another s::can is placed in the river close to where the pipe meets the river. The water quality is monitored at both sites and the contamination levels are measured to see if the build-up of storm water in the pipes leads to greater contamination. The second project which Prof. Chow is carrying out is to change the coagulant dose using s::can to monitoring the key parameters in order to manage the drinking water treatment process.
On day two of the workshop, Prof. Christopher Chow presented his work on visulaisation and data analytics for process management. His work in this area concentrates on the two areas of wastewater treatment plants (early warnings) and drinking water treatment plants (disinfection control). The development of smart data analytic tools for waste water treatment uses UV-Vis spectrophotometer in a process control. It uses software tools which allow a user friendly web-based data visualisation interface, smart data analytics tools investigate “process upsets” and real time early warning systems. The project is being carried out in Whyalla Water Reclamation Plant. The second project Christopher is carrying out is online trial of surrogate parameters at a conventional water treatment plant. This involves chlorine residual management and dosing controls.
Prof. Peter Teasdale also from UniSA was unable to attend the workshop but carries out research which complements DCU’s research. Peters research focuses on a number of areas such as developing new monitoring and sensor technologies (specifically passive samplers and analysing environmental samples), understanding important environmental processes, cycling and bio-uptake of contaminants and environmental quality assessment. A project which Peter is currently carrying out is new measurement techniques to improve understanding of biogeochemical and contaminant processes.
Sensor Integration & Microfluidics
Prof. Mahfuz Aziz of UniSA started off the second day via video call by giving a presentation on his research work currently being carried out. Prof. Aziz’s areas of interest include SensorElectronic Integration, IoT Applications, Low power processing architectures, Reconfigurable sensing platforms, Smart Energy Systems, Protocols for next generation sensor networks and IoT Security and Privacy. Mahfuz spoke about his visons for an interconnected world with over 200 billion devices by 2020. Mahfuz’s research focuses on overcoming the challenges which these interconnected sensors may causes such as Low sensor signal, Noise/ Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) ‒ SNR, Off-chip vs. on-chip processing. A project which Mahfuz is currently working on is Distributed Sensing which hopes to interconnect all of the water facilities in Adelaide. These facilities include the amount of water consumption, smart water meters, water leak detectors, pressure temperature quality, and water supplying authority and water distribution point. Another project is Visual Sensing which hopes to use sensors around the city to use process vectors with motions to allow the detection of things which shouldn’t be happening (Exp. Traffic going the wrong way).
Dr. Nigel Kent’s research expertise include Chemical, Biological and Environmental sensing, Microfluidic platform design and manufacture, Prototype development, integration of mechanical, electronic and software aspects, and 3D printing and additive manufacturing techniques. Nigel presented his current research which focuses on platelet monitoring biochip, automated braille reader, nutrient sensing, and dynamic platelet response and greenlight project. The platelet monitoring biochip is a diagnostic test for dual antiplatelet drug response which uses laser patterned acrylic and pressure sensitive adhesive bonding. The nutrient sensor is a cost effective manufacture of microfluidic devices. The modified system is currently at pilot level production in TeLabs. The greenlight project is a breath test for ammonia measurement which indicates for liver and kidney dysfunction, urea cycle defects and ulcer detection.
Ivan Maguire is a PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Fiona Regan. Ivan is carrying out a project partnered with a number of members across the EU called the MARIA Box. The MARIne environmental in situ Assessment and monitoring tool BOX (MARIABOX) is an FP7 EU-funded project tasked with the development of multiple analytical devices which could form a neural network for marine-based in-situ sensing of chemical and biological pollutants in seawater using novel biosensors. Jenny Fitzgerald and Ivan Maguire were tasked with the development of the microfluidic disks, which were capable of detecting the toxins in the samples and signalling that the toxins were present.
Dr. Dario Arrua’s research interests focus on the development and characterisation of novel materials for their application in the general areas of separation science including the synthesis and characterisation of both polymer monoliths (cryogels, polyHIPEs, etc) and nano/micro particles. These materials have applications in solid-phase chemistry, sample preparation and as stationary phases for the separation of complex mixtures. Dario’s current research which he discussed at the workshop include the synthesis of polymer monoliths using different approaches such as polymerisation induced phase separation (PIPS) and templated materials from high internal phase emulsions (HIPE). He discussed the application of the materials in sample prep and liquid chromatography.
Dr. Craig Priest from UniSA gave a presentation on his current research work on interfacial, physical, and analytical science in micro/nanofluidic devices (and other small scale environments). He also works closely with industry partners in minerals, water quality, and advanced manufacturing. At the workshop, Craig gave a very informative presentation describing the current research projects he is carrying out and the different facilities available in the UniSA fabrication facility. Craig’s current research work involves thin layer microanalysis, bubble release in microstructures, leaching in micro cracks, extraction of technology metals, water monitoring of chloride and ammonia. Craig also described the facilities available in UniSA which include lithography, sputter coater, plasma etcher, EVG hot embosser, optical profilmeter, milling and moulding and micro/nano XCT. This facility has been open 10 years. Craig is Director of the facility and the Facility Manager is Simon Doe, who also attended the workshop here in DCU.
Dr. Mercedes Vasquez is assistant professor in DCU and she is a principle investigator in the NCSR and Advanced Processing Technology Research Centre (Apt). Mercedes spoke at the sensor workshop about the various projects which she has carried out which all mostly focuses on microfluidics and centrifugal disks. Currently her projects include the development of a centrifugal disk for extraction and pre-concentration, polymeric chips with integrated bioaffinity columns, polymeric chips with integrated electrodes for chemical detection and glass/silicon’s for high pressure LC separation. Mercedes is also looking at various strategies for integration of separation columns in microfluidic chips and low cost in-situ on CD colorimetric detection.
Prof. Jens Ducree is the founding director of Ireland’s first Fraunhofer Project Centre for Embedded Bioanalytical Systems at DCU and also an academic member of the NCSR and the 3U Joint Institute of Global Health (JIGH). The main part of his research is directed towards novel microfluidic systems and associated actuation, detection, fabrication and instrumentation technologies for the integration, automation, miniaturization and parallelization of sample preparation and detection of bioanalytical assays. In his presentation, Jens discussed his current project his research group are carrying out and he also introduced the Fraunhofer Project Centre. Jens research projects include a multi-parameter bioanalysis at the point-of-use by the user friendly and versatile lab on a disk platform. He also spoke about centrifugal microfluidic platforms for immunoassays testing and nucleic acid testing. Prof. Ducree hopes to produce large scale integration for further multiplexing/ parallelization of microfluidic disks.
Data Analytics for Sensors and Monitoring
Dr. Harry Kolar from IBM, Arizona gave a presentation on some of the research which IBM research groups are carrying out. The area which Harry and his research group focus on mainly involves observational systems, distributed data and analysis, real-time aspects, coupled modelling with links to observational date. Current projects involve advancing marine and coastal monitoring by using sensors with wireless communication to databases, a wave energy test site in Galway Bay and finally the Jefferson Project at Lake George which aims to reduce toxic levels of the lake in order to bring the lake back to healthy chloride levels. This will be done by monitoring the toxic levels of the water, carrying out experiments to try improving toxic levels and rolling out a model across the lake to ensure contamination does not occur again.
Dr. Dian Zhang of DCU involves the use of sensors to produce data analytics of monitoring. Dian and his research team have carried out a number of projects involving Understanding underwater video content, investigating object detection and recognition for the Smart Bay camera platform. The long term goal of this project is to enable a higher-level knowledge exploitation of underwater imagery by semantic labelling and indexing of images and video data to improve data mining and retrieval. Object detection algorithms will be applied to the content from the underwater cameras. The result of object detection can be used to automatically identify potentially interesting video segments thereby reducing the amount of video content which has to be analysed. Another project by Dians team is analysing real time data of Croke Park to help improve the grass quality by detecting which parts of the field are being used the most and receiving the most damage. The data they obtain from this can be passed on to Croke Park officials who can then ensure that these parts receive stronger treatment than other parts. An ongoing project at the moment involves monitoring traffic in various parts of Dublin City. This information will allow for city council officials to be aware of where traffic builds up and where improvements should be made.
Members of the workshop were welcome to join three lab tours which took place. This was a great opportunity for members from UniSA to get demonstartions of some of the work currently being carried out in DCU. The first tour took place in the research labs on Prof. Fiona Regan to look at the phosphate sensors which are currently being developed and also to view a demonstration of the microfluidic disks currently being deployed on the Maria Box project. UniSA members then received a tour of the Nano-Bioanalytical Research Facility which included 3D printers, laser cutters, 3D microscopes and nano scribers. Dr. Margeret McCaul gave a tour of Prof. Dermot Diamond’s sensor lab which included the autonomous nutrient sensors, heavy metal sensors and sweat sensors.
Brian Brennan, DCU Water Institute 01 7008514. Presentations will be available on-line www.dcuwater.ie in January 2018. Follow @dcuwater