Broadband Tunable QCL based Sensor for Online and Inline Detection of Contaminants in Water


Water is essential for all forms of life on earth and, therefore, ensuring high water quality is of paramount importance. The supply of sufficient and sufficiently clean fresh water is under pressure worldwide, meaning that water purification and the monitoring of cleaning processes is crucial.

The project AQUARIUS (Broadband Tunable QCL based Sensor for Online and Inline Detection of Contaminants in Water) addresses the development of a new generation of photonic sensing solution, in response to the need for pervasive sensing for a safer environment. In particular components, modules, sub-systems and systems shall be developed for enhanced sensitivity and specificity in water monitoring following the requirements of regulatory bodies, as well as the needs of selected end-users such as waterworks and the oil producing industry. Specifically addressed within the AQUARIUS project is the detection of hydrocarbon contaminations in water (Oil-in-Water contaminations). While most current laboratory with analytical techniques can in principle handle these tasks, they are often labour and cost intensive as well as time consuming. In most cases they require samples to be taken at e.g. the water works facility and then transferred to the analytical laboratory. Therefore it would be very helpful if on- or even inline analytical sensors with high sensitivity were available, allowing for a reliable and continuous real-time monitoring on site.

The following key objectives will be addressed by AQUARIUS:

  • Enhancement of broadband tunable quantum cascade lasers in terms of spectral coverage and noise
    (Technology Readiness Level (TRL) increase: from 4 to 6)
  • Realisation of a fully functional spectrometer sub-system consisting of a μEC-QCL and a fast MCT detector including data acquisition
    (TRL increase: from 3 to 6)
  • Advance oil-in-water monitoring capabilities from offline (state-of-the-art) to online
    (TRL increase: from 3 to 6)
  • Test of the online oil-in-water system at industrial end users
    (TRL 7)
  • Realisation of integrated optical circuits (IOCs) for waveguide based sensing and inline capable sensing configuration
    (TRL increase: from 2 to 4)
  • Assembly and test of the inline oil-in-water system in a laboratory environment
    (TRL increase: from 2 to 4)

The AQUARIUS project is planned to run for 36 months. It is organized into eight work packages with significant dependencies and expected synergies between them.

The AQUARIUS consortium consists of 8 partners from 5 different countries (Austria, Germany, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands). 

Technology Readiness Level (TRL)


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