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A cost effective, self-calibrating, low maintenance pH sensor for an integrated approach to monitoring sea and drinking water, facilitating improvements in ocean, animal and human health

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - pHenom (A cost effective, self-calibrating, low maintenance pH sensor for an integrated approach to monitoring sea and drinking water, facilitating improvements in ocean, animal and human health)

Berichtszeitraum: 2019-08-01 bis 2020-09-30

ANB Sensors (ANB) is developing the next generation of pH Sensors for oceanographic, environmental and water resource management applications. The key failing of existing pH sensors, is the short life and high maintenance costs of the sensors because of reference electrode drift. Today's pH sensors cannot be used for long duration monitoring, cannot be used in smart sensor networks and, most critically, require labour intensive, costly calibration, up to 70% of the total cost of the sensor.

ANB’s innovative pH sensor, the pHenom, is based on an electrochemical technique which utilises a pH responding molecule bound within a solid-state matrix. This is combined with a novel means of verifying the performance of the pHenoms reference electrode, through an additional in-situ electrochemical measurement. This is used to calibrate the reference electrode, making the pHenom capable of drift free pH measurement. ANB’s overall objective for this project is to develop the pHenom technology to the point where it can be launched in the market, through technology licensing and sales. To meet this objective, ANB propose in this project to develop and produce three (3) calibration free commercial prototype sensor systems (one glass pH sensor system, one ISE system and one pHenom system for use on underwater vehicles).
Broadly speaking the first year focused on increasing the TRL of the two key technology platforms, the iREF (formerly the iCal) pHenom - a self-calibrating platform for all Ion Selective Electrodes facilitating in-situ smart monitoring, and the solid state pHenom (S Series) - a sensor suitable for deployment in the world’s oceans and waterways. Simultaneously, ANB have actively engaged with end-users, key industrial stakeholders and sensor manufacturers as the project moved towards commercialization.

The second year has focused on taking this technology to end-users and clients and allowing them to assess and a validate the systems, whilst also continuing the development of the sensors through prototype manufacture. The iRef has now been tested at 4 electrode manufacturers and further manufacturers will be testing this post-project completion. The S series has been tested at a number of locations. Post project it will be further tested at oceanographic centres and sonde suppliers across the globe, with sales already in place for delivery in November. It has been ANB Sensors aim to disseminate and exploit the technology and the project throughout the course of the grant. Prior to covid-19 ANB Sensors attended key conferences and expo’s such as Pittcon, Oceanology 2019, WWEM 2018, Ocean Business 2019 as well as visiting a number of companies for face to face meetings. During covid-19 this has moved to online meetings where ANB Sensors have engaged actively with a number of end users and sensor integrators who are keen to buy and test the sensor once the manufacturing starts. Furthermore, ANB Sensors secured SEED investment from two angel investors and an investment fund focused on the aquaculture industry. Press releases around this and our EU funding have further fuelled interest, notably in the aquaculture industry. Work with the European Enterprise Network has continued and led to ANB Sensors being involved in discussions on UK funding in the future, which is a direct relation to ANB Sensors being holders of the H2020 EU grant.

The iRef (formerly iCal) has been incorporated into a number of commercial pH sensor designs by various glass pH sensor manufacturers, who between them produce in excess of 1.5M pH sensors/yr. Technical Work has also focused on the development of the control electronics, incorporating the iRef measurement, the conventional pH measurement and a corrected measurement based on the iRef potential. This development has allowed glass electrode manufacturers to use, test and observe, at first hand, the efficacy of the iRef technology. Furthermore, through interaction with these companies ANB have a firmer idea of how the sensor will be deployed and which reference media should be tested. These media are now being tested and showing predicted lifetimes up to two years. ANB have discussed licensing of the technology to all the companies that have expressed significant interest in doing this and will be a route to market post-project. Furthermore, the iRef technology has been presented at a Waste Water Environmental Monitoring event in late 2018 and at Pittcon in early 2019. Due to Covid there has been a delay in beginning the field trials prior to project closure, but these are now planned in the coming months with the aim of being commercial in H1 2021 through licensing and OEM arrangements.

Following a number of trials at various oceanographic centres and an under water vehicle manufacturer, the fourth generation of the S Series is currently being manufactured and tested. This will be ANB Sensors launch product. The S Series will be introduced to the market in three forms: the S1000 - an OEM pack, S1100 - the 300m version and the S1200 - for monitoring to depths of ca. 2km. The technology will be officially launched at the Oceanology expo. ANB Sensors have gained significant market traction in the past 12 months, in the oceanographic, underwater vehicle and aquaculture industries and are close to signing an OEM arrangement to supply its technology to an integrator. The revenue and growth model of the S Series is strong, using direct sales and OEM licensing agreements to facilitate this, the replaceable transducer longer term ensure that there is continuous return on the existing sensor hardware deployed.

Exploitation outside of the water businesses is evident and ANB Sensors are part of a grant application to develop their technology for Cow Bolus sensors to monitor the pH of the rumen.
ANB Sensors vision statement is to create a more sustainable planet by advancing environmental sensors. There is no doubt that the project has helped ANB sensors achieve this. Today’s pH sensors require frequent recalibration, are not suitable for mass deployment in the IoT and thus limit the spatial and temporal resolution of environmental and industrial issues. Throughou, the project it has been ANB Sensors aim to revolutionise this market and take their technology beyond the state of the art.

The iRef technology will allow existing glass electrode users to swap their technology for a probe that doesn’t require calibration cutting operational costs, allowing the redeployment of personal to more valuable tasks and lowering the company’s carbon footprint by removing the need to send field engineers to each individual sensor in turn.

The S series will aid in our understanding of the World’s Oceans, being the only pH sensor truly capable of being deployed on underwater vehicles thus providing researchers and government legislators the data and knowledge they require to produce informed decisions. Furthermore, the calibration free nature of the S Series will allow monitoring of processes with enhanced spatial resolution and such will contribute to developing a more sustainable system. This is particularly relevant in the aquaculture and dairy/beef industries where changes in pH can impact the healthiness of fish or the productivity of cows to produce milk and cows to produce methane. Monitoring the pH remotely will allow farmers to ensure that the animals stay healthy and in the case of cows lower the methane production.
S Series Sensor
iRef image
IRef electronics