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In-situ Total Nutrient Analyser System for Natural Waters

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A revolutionary technology that may alter how we monitor water quality

An Ireland-based company unveiled a groundbreaking water quality analyser that provides accurate, real-time information about nitrate and nitrite levels in fresh and effluent water.

Food and Natural Resources icon Food and Natural Resources

Real-time water quality management plays a key role in the transition to a more ecologically sustainable society. With ever-changing climate and human-influenced conditions affecting our lakes, rivers, streams and coastal waters, water quality needs to be consistently monitored, and any quality issues should be flagged at the earliest possible stages.

Traditional water monitoring technologies get an upgrade

Traditionally, water quality monitoring relies on manual systems of data collection, otherwise known as grab sampling. Collected in an open container or bottle, samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Although the process is well established, it is time consuming: analysis results are released after several days and only represent snapshots of the various measured variables, rendering it difficult to compare or assess their values over time. Furthermore, the complexity, short deployment endurance and high cost of current in situ monitoring systems make them impractical, especially when it comes to small-scale operations. T.E. Laboratories, which specialises in water and environmental analysis and research, demonstrated an alternative to manual and in situ systems of data collection and sampling. “A new breed of autonomous, real-time analyser, Aquamonitrix®, was introduced to the market in 2021 that can measure nitrite and nitrate in situ with high accuracy and specificity in natural and industrial waters,” explains Sandra Lacey, research officer at T.E. Laboratories. “Our portable, lightweight analyser can assess a large number of parameters through an autonomous microfluidic device that can perform in situ calibration and high-frequency measurements over long deployment periods. The EU-funded H2OMon project funded acceleration of the development and commercialisation of the novel analytical technology,” adds Lacey.

The technology

The key differentiator underpinning the superior accuracy and specificity of nitrite and nitrate detection by Aquamonitrix® compared to traditional analysers is that it adds the separation capabilities of ion chromatography to proprietary optical detection technology (UV-LED detection). Key to the chromatography separation step is the greater ionic attraction of the nitrate ions, which slows their movement through the column, meaning that the nitrite ions reach the detector first. This provides unrivalled accuracy of nitrite readings even when nitrate concentrations are high. Aquamonitrix® is an exceptionally sensitive analyser, with detection limits as low as 0.05 mg/L for nitrite and 0.6 mg/L for nitrate. What’s more, antifouling materials block bacteria, ions or other charged particles found in the water sample.

Remote monitoring system

“What also sets Aquamonitrix® apart from other systems is its in-built IoT communication that instantaneously alerts operators for any change in nitrate or nitrite levels so that they can respond immediately to limit environmental damage and avoid heavy fines,” explains Lacey. Operators can view the readings in real time through the newly developed data management tool called Datamonitrix. “By getting up-to-date information on water quality, management can make interventional, operational and safety decisions, ensuring regulatory compliance and better optimising treatment processes.” Lacey concludes: “We are now selling our analysers across Europe, tackling the global issue of nutrient pollution in water systems. Improved versions that can detect more analytes are also on the way.”

Keywords

H2OMon, analyser, nitrate, nitrite, water quality, Aquamonitrix®, nutrient pollution, remote monitoring, Datamonitrix

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