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NAPES Report Summary

Project ID: 604241
Funded under: FP7-NMP
Country: Ireland

Periodic Report Summary 2 - NAPES (NAPES - Next Generation Analytical Platforms for Environmental Sensing)

Project Context and Objectives:
NAPES intends to create low cost deployable, autonomous environmental sensor platforms by bringing together novel technologies incorporating innovative sampling and target pre-concentration, fluid manipulation/flow control, microfluidic based sample processing and target detection using highly specific detection methods for determination of bacterial contaminants such as E.coli and chemical pollutants like phosphate and surfactants that can contaminate water supplies (reservoirs) and evaluation of water post-treatment. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the strategy for implementation of novel technologies to reduce unit costs while concurrently implementing novel sensing and fluid handling technologies.

Project Objectives

1. Create fundamental advances in liquid/sample handling using nano/micro-structured stimuli-responsive materials. These materials will be used to create micro-scale valves for fluid control and sample manipulation.

2. Develop innovative sampling strategies to allow go collection of larger than current representative samples and reduce volumes to those compatible with portable detection platforms

3. Create and integrate innovative extraction and detection schemes for highly specific detection of chemical and biological targets. Label free optical detection using water refractive index matched materials and customized lectin panels, NAPES intends to perform high sensitivity measurements of waterborne contaminants.

4. Integrate novel platforms and demonstration of prototype next generation autonomous deployable systems. NAPES intends to combine state-of-the-art chemical, biological and engineering technologies to create and field test prototype systems.

5. Commercialise next generation detection platforms. The NAPES consortium brings together academic research institutions and private industrial partners, which encourages long-term strategies for productisation and scale-up of production in parallel to technical and scientific activities. This encourages research to be focused upon the creation of novel components and final platforms that will have practical application outside of the lab environment.

Project Results:
NAPES project activities for M18–M30 have consisted of continued research and development, commercialisation and dissemination activities as outlined within the active tasks of the period. The following is a brief summary of each WP progress:

WP 1 continued its oversight of the project reporting and administrative objectives. Significant activity in this WP focussed on the removal of CIC Microgune (MG) as a legal partner from the consortium and introduction of University of the Basque Country (EHU/UPV) and Ikerlan (IK4-IKERLAN) in its place. Legal documentation and supporting information have been sent to the Commission and through the Portal system and await the final legal sign off.

WP 2 progress continued the characterisation of spiropyran derivatives immobilized within polymer materials for the development of photo responsive materials for flow control, mixing and sensing applications. Activities included synthesis of novel stimuli responsive materials to expand existing library of active compounds, the improvement of the synthetic process for the SPA-8 molecule for improved yields for partner distribution and optimisation of the microfluidic integration of photo responsive polymer valves with greater automation and reproducibility. Also new possibilities to functionalize materials with these hydrogels are shown e.g. grafting on a cotton fibre. The technique can also be implemented in channels in microfluidics for surface modifications. Further development of protocols to control the surface of the novel fluorinated materials realized under T2.3 and improvements of the immobilization of bio-receptor molecules on RPI surfaces for the production of biological target detection platforms was also carried out during this period. Furthermore completion and validation of the scFv molecules was carried out during this period and further optimization and characterisation of commercial antibodies was carried out which resulted in the identification of biological molecules that will be used in the pre-concentration module.

WP 3 focussed upon the preparation of the RO and TF platforms for systems integration within the prototype platform under development in WP8. Slight optimisation to the performance of the RO system was carried out while the systems complexity and size was further simplified. Input and output volumes for the platform were defined and flow rates/pressures were characterised for integration. The TF platform continued to have its operations automated (valves, pumps) for platform integration in addition to continued development of both platforms to allow for the combination of both platforms to result in a single preconcentration platform.

WP 4 activities focussed upon the development of a microfluidic manifold based on functionalized magnetic beads for the specific preconcentration of bacteria, and the compatibility of bacteria extraction with their release onto the optical detector. This included the identification of specific ligands for several strains of bacteria by ABL that will allow their integration in the preconcentration module by MMBM Additionally, the compatibility of both modules for preconcentration and detection offline and the design and fabrication of connecting parts between the preconcentration and the detection modules were progressed further. Microvalves based upon SPA-8 gels developed in WP2 were integrated within microfluidic chips and demonstrated the ability to use the photo responsive polymer gels as a means of valving and flow control within viable microfluidic applications. A protocol for the fabrication of hybrid microfluidic devices using COP and PSA material has been carried out by using the fast prototyping Origami technique.

WP 5 continued the development of optical detection platforms. During the reporting period, microfluidic chips integrating the novel fluorinated micro-porous materials realized in T2.3 (micro-porous membrane and column of micro-beads) enabling the detection of molecular pollutants were realized and tested. Other activities included the further development of the fluidic cell hosting the RPI sensing chip functionalized with spots of different lectins, the realization and testing of the optical platform enabling the detection of specific bacteria in the fluidic cell and the improvement of the protocols for the preparation of the sensing surface of the RPI chip.

WP 6 progress involved the integration of the different microfluidic modules generated in WPs2-5 into a microfluidic manifold design compatible with the prototype platforms to be assessed in WP7 and field deployed in WP8. Using of a modular approach of modules that interconnect with each other, e.g.: Photo responsive valves and photo-configurable/responsive surfaces from WP2, sampling and preconcentration units from WP3, sample processing modules from WP4, and refractive index based detector for E. coli from WP5. A compact version of the RPI optical detection platform, compatible with portable deployment, was developed by UMIL, incorporating microfluidic chip designs by UPV-EHU and Ikerlan. Methods for integration of prototype RPI with the bead based concentrator (MMBM) is on-going with Ikerlan now that the RPI platform is complete. Automation of the Tubular filtration system has been achieved and similar automation is on-going with bead based concentrator. Biocompatible alginate micro valves were in-situ generated, on demand, in a microfluidic module for flow control.

WP 7 continued the development of the layout of a modular platform for future integration of components developed in WPs2-6 and design and fabrication of modules that are under development in WPs 2-6 to ensure their compatibility and to prepare for the integration of all modules in a single platform. Specific progress from this period includes development and prototyping of newer platform for integration and actuation of photosensitive valves within microfluidic systems, testing the adsorption of surfactant using the phantom micro-porous membrane and optical characterization of the first prototype of phantom chromatography column realized under WP5. To date, complete RPI platform and RO systems delivered to DCU for integration and testing, an RO system has been delivered to WIS for conversion into deployment ready configuration and testing in WP8 and an automated TF platform has been produced by DCU and delivered to MMBM for testing. Inter-platform integration strategies are being developed with Ikerlan to facilitate connectivity of systems within prototype platform; including microfluidic manifolds and reservoirs.

WP 8 activities included the identification of potential Wastewater Treatment Plant deployment sites through consultation with the consortium members and continuation of lab based testing of their respective subsystems to ensure that the performance meets the specifications required for these deployments. These trials will progress to lab testing using real environmental samples followed by initial in-situ deployments. RO system converted by WIS for deployment is in planning stages for deployment in Ireland and 2 additional deployments due upon completion of systems in Northern Ireland and Spain.

WP 9 focussed on dissemination and exploitation activities during the period. Dissemination objectives carried out included promotion of NAPES project, publication of results, generation of awareness of NAPES activities, and representation of NAPES at national and international events and hosting Workshop 1. Commercial exploitation of project deliverables and objectives during the period included devising commercial exploitation plans, brokering investment of stakeholders, negotiating IP access, representing NAPES prototypes at trade fairs, and exploiting funding mechanisms to bring NAPES outputs to market.

Potential Impact:
The resulting NAPES platform is expected to significantly reduce the cost of deployable environmental monitoring platforms through integration of novel materials technologies. The corresponding reduction in cost and increased accessibility of technology should allow for greater implementation of such technologies and result in a more widespread environmental monitoring network across Europe. The creation of such networks within member states and across the EU as a whole will provide an infrastructure that will allow for increased awareness of chemical and biological contamination events with a corresponding decrease in EU citizen illness. The creation of rapid warning systems will contribute to the goal of providing technologies to enable environmental legislation and directives to be much more effectively policed and enforced; then making this information available to the citizen and to specialists; it can provide the basis for new services to industry and society .

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