Bioremediation involves the use of biological agents to remove or neutralise contaminants from water and soil and its effectiveness may be monitored by analysing samples taken from the site. By integrating low-cost, real-time online control systems into the remediation process, significant savings can be made regarding the overall time and cost of the remediation. The EU-funded INTELLIREMED (Low-cost remote monitoring and control system for in-situ remediation of soil) project employed recent advances in sensor and low-cost wireless technology to conduct the continuous monitoring of the bioremediation process. Project partners developed a biosensor unit that measured the exact amount of contaminant and a smart, self-contained wireless sensor network. This system harnessed the electricity-generating ability of certain soil microbes using microbial fuel cells (MFCs). These powered the wireless sensor units, which measured the parameters of the soil and ground water such as electrical conductivity, pH, and dissolved oxygen. A bacterial biosensor unit monitored the exact concentration level of the benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX) contaminant group. The unit was coupled with a wireless sensor node that sent the data to a central control unit (CCU). The CCU in turn used the data to control the treatment unit, which adjusted bioremediation parameters accordingly, including optimum nutrition levels for the bacteria. By incorporating microbial fuel cell-containing, electricity-generating bacteria into each node, INTELLIREMED was able to create a maintenance-free, self-sustaining means of powering the unit. The final system provided a low-cost means to monitor, control and adjust the bioremediation process remotely, reducing operational costs and shortening response times. Although in situ bioremediation methods are currently available on the market none represents such a complete solution as INTELLIREMED, due to its low-cost biosensor unit, self-contained monitoring network and intelligent control and treatment unit. The bioremediation industry is currently worth around 5.2 billion Euros and is likely to increase significantly in the future.
Wireless monitoring, biosensor, bioremediation, INTELLIREMED, microbial fuel cell