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microMole Report Summary

Project ID: 653626
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.7.


Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The threat of synthetic drugs is one of the most significant current drug problems worldwide. In the last few years, the figure for worldwide abuse of synthetic drugs keeps rising which is also accompanied by a significant increase in production of ATS in the EU. The microMole project, which has been just launched for three years to follow, tackles that problem with monitoring sewage systems.

The main objective of microMole is to design and develop an autarkic sensor system – namely the microMole – which will track down the production of illicit substances by being installed in the sewage systems. The successful implementation of the project deliverable will reduce social harm linked to this criminal phenomenon, but also shall have a positive effect on environmental protection through curbing down the spillage of hazardous substances. The primary role of microMole however, is to aid law enforcement in investigating crime related to the production of synthetic drugs. The sensor system will allow for the continuous examination of wastewater flow, keep track of the location and place where each sample was taken, in order to provide exhaustive information about the chemical sample to be potentially utilized as a legal evidence. The design, development and testing a prototype of a system for recording, retrieving and monitoring operations of synthetic drug laboratories in urban areas is the ultimate goal of the project group.

The microMole prototype will contain the following features: a) miniaturized system for sewage pipes, b) robust housing taking into account sewage system environment, c) minimized power consumption, d) enhanced operation time supported by energy harvesting, e) high-specificity electro-chemical sensors, f) integrated micro-tanks for sample storage, and g) secure GSM and radio communications for remote monitoring. Analysis of privacy law, data protection and social acceptance will be carried out at different stages.

MicroMole is a joint effort of 11 consortium members: Warsaw University of Technology (Poland), Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police (Poland), Federal Criminal Police Office (Germany), Blue Technologies (Poland), CapSenze (Sweden), JGK Tech-Pipeferret (Iceland), Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (Germany), Tilburg University (the Netherlands), Ghent University (Belgium), Universite Claude Bernard (France), Universität der Bundeswehr (Germany). The successful proposal has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 653626.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

During the first period of the micromole project the consortium focused mainly on system requirements and system specifications tasks. In addition, system design, implementation and testing were carried out of critical system parts, in order to verify the most important project assumptions.

The main outcomes of the project consortium during this first period are:

1. Validation of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) requirements and system use-cases by all consortium parties: tech-developers, LEAs, social science researchers,
2. Elaboration of the system concept and its overall specification,
3. First definition of target substances for tracking Amphetamine-Type Stimulant (ATS) production in the sewage,
4. Development and demonstration through experimentation in the sewage of feasible sensing principles for the detection of ATS waste using abiotic sensors,
5. Design and manufacturing of Molecular Impriminted Polymers (MIPs) for detection of amphetamine and N-formylamphetamine particles in laboratory conditions using a electro-chemical capacitative sensor,
6. Design and manufacturing of a macro-prototype of the ring device including electro-chemical capacitative sensors, fluidics and a remote control system adjusted to 300 mm pipes,
7. Design, manufacturing and testing of different thermogenerator structures in the sewage,
8. Implementation of a radio communications subsystem and its testing in the sewage pipes, and
9. Definition of the interfaces between all modules (mechanical, electrical, information) and adjustment of these definitions among all partners.

Even though the consortium has not yet tested the electro-chemical capacitative sensors in the sewage, the consortium has been able to demonstrate that it is possible to create a system for tracking ATS production waste in the sewage with commercially available abiotic sensors.

The consortium has reached milestones MS1 and MS2, according to the plan.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

State of the art chemical sensing systems for the given task use discrete components to charge and discharge the sensor capacitance, while sampling the current voltage across it. This approach enables high resolution but limits the miniaturization of the system and causes high power consumption. The projected ASIC will overcome these limits using an optimized sensing scheme and strongly reduced power consumption. Additionally, the use of an integrated circuit enables the design of a compact multi-sensor system. Detailed measurements of the chemical sensing systems were done to evaluate the requirements of the ASIC during the first year of the project. The developed measurement approach allows high precision capacitive sensing with minimal interference to the chemical behavior. Adapting this approach for different types of sensing cells makes the overall system more flexible and reduces the design risk, which was done during the first year.
The ASIC development and evaluation is the main focus of the second year and a big step towards the projected aim.

microMole project aims to harvest electrical energy in the sewage system. To address this challenge, both a thermal and electrical design beyond the state-of-the-art are required. 
State of the art ultra-low voltage step-up converter from Linear Technology LTC3108 has a typical start-up voltage of 20 mV. However, it can only step-up a positive voltage, which means a positive temperature gradient, and it does not has a Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT). Moreover, the maximum efficiency reported in the datasheet is 50%. The ASIC designed by Fraunhofer IIS and soon to be available has bipolar functionality, which means that can step-up either positive or negative temperature gradients, and will be controlled by a MPPT implemented in a commercial low-power non-volatile memory device in order to extract the maximum power available from the thermogenerator. The typical minimum start-up voltage of this ASIC in simulation is 35 mV and it has a typical efficiency of 63% for 200 mV input voltage an output current of 3.7 mA. The thermal path of the thermal harvester is designed for the environmental conditions measured at the sewage system. Customized heat sinks have been simulated and structural tests have probed that the clogging caused by commercial cooling devices is solved. 

Related information

Record Number: 198317 / Last updated on: 2017-05-18
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