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Periodo di rendicontazione: 2016-09-01 al 2019-02-28

The threat of synthetic drugs is one of the most significant current drug problems worldwide. Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) are the second most widely used drugs. Since 1990, ATS manufacturing has been reported from more than 70 countries worldwide and the figure keeps rising. In 2008, 80 % of the amphetamine production facilities dismantled worldwide were located in Europe. Organised Crime Groups are involved in ATS large-scale production. Since 2011, the wide availability of pre-precursors (like APAAN) significantly lowered the price of the controlled precursor BMK and caused severe environmental problems, taking the problem to a greater dimension.

The aim of this project is to design, develop and test a prototype of a system for legal recording, retrieving and monitoring operations of ATS and ATS precursor laboratories in urban areas. The sensor system will be installed within the sewage system and will track waste associated to ATS production. Criminal investigators and forensic specialists will use the system in case of:1. initial general suspicion of ATS production in a certain area, for locating laboratories by monitoring the sewage system for long time periods;2. strong suspicions that in a well confined area ATS is being produced, for collecting material for forensic analysis and potential use in court, and for aiding in the planning of LEA raid operations.

The μMole prototype will contain the following features: a) miniaturized system for 200mm 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 on at different stages.
The last technical period of the project micromole has been marked by intensive testing, integration work and performance improvements of 1) a system that includes all modules, with the exception of the energy harvesting module and the chemical sensing module, and 2) a prototype of the chemical sensing module.

During its 42 months, the consortium managed to fully integrate and test a prototype consisting of three rings, a gateway and a crawler robot. The first two rings contain a pH sensor and a conductivity sensor, while the third ring contains a sampling module and an optical communications module for allowing data transmission to a gateway device installed far away. All rings are equipped, in addition, with an energy management module, additional batteries (in place of the energy harvesting module), a main controller and a radio module.

The micromole system is able to periodically measure pH and conductivity of the sewage flow and to trigger the sampling module for physical evidence gathering, whenever the pH and conductivity measurements abruptly change as to match
values that can be correlated with an ATS waste spill in the sewage. The sampling module is able to collect up to three 1.5mL physical samples of the sewage flow in 15 seconds. The average time elapsed since an abrupt change in pH or conductivity
is identified by the first two rings to the moment when the sampling module in the third ring starts collecting evidence is on average 350 milliseconds.

The crawler robot allows mounting the ring device remotely in sewer pipes of no less than 250mm in diameter. The crawler robot is capable of transporting two ring devices at a time, reducing the total installation time. Thanks to the crawler robot and the usage of optical communications, the system can be mounted 200 meters away from the suspected place through a manhole, in an unnoticed manner.

In addition, the consortium was able to achieve the implementation and testing of two chemical sensor module prototypes, both of which includes the ASIC, the transducers, the active fluidic system and the MIPs as recognition element. The integration of the chemical sensor was not completely achieved within the fully integrated micromole ring prototype due to problems in the data analysis. The harsh and changing conditions in the sewage and the time needed for correct sample
identification within the chemical sensor hindered the data analysis tasks of the consortium and prevented the consortium -within the time frame of the project- from designing an efficient and general mechanism for discerning the presence of the substances based on the output data of the chemical sensor.

During the last 18 months of the project, five testbed sessions were organized (three in KWB and two in Legionowo), where all partners had the opportunity to test different prototypes and detection principles in real conditions and verify the correct functionality of the full system. Following the recommendations of the EC reviewers, the consortium stopped the development of the energy harvesting device and the acoustic communication module in the last period.
The product development plan for the basic system is on track. Fortunately, five (5) partners of the micromole consortium received funding - through the H2020 SYSTEM project - for bringing the micromole system to TRL level 7, for a deeper validation in an operational environment. All parts of the micromole system excluding the chemical sensor, sampling module and energy harvester will be further develop in the H2020 SYSTEM project, where two years of the project will be devoted to testing of the micromole system in five different cities in Europe.

In the long term, the consortium agreed that the SMEs in the consortium do not have the capabilities of bringing the micromole system to the market as a product. Therefore, the consortium decided that in the short-term future an agreement should be reached with a company well-positioned in the security sector in EU as to offer the results of the consortium once it has reached TRL7.

The chain of production is still valid for the basic system. The price is reasonable and potential for cost reduction is available.

Through some industrial dissemination activities (e.g. the IFAT exhibition and as well as in the Sensor + Test exhibition) carried out during the project, some members of the consortium could confirm the potential of other applications of the micromole prototype, specially in the water treatment sector and as well as in the “wet” process industries.