Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - POLLINS (Automated Pollution Inspection Scanning System for Soil using a robotic vehicle)

Project Context and Objectives:
There are currently more than 3 million potential contaminated soil sites in Europe waiting in queue to be surveyed and chemically analyzed. While the whole process can last minimum one month to provide results for one site, the soil contamination continues to expand in the ground travelling from O to B Horizon. Currently, the detection of soil pollution is done by manual surveys which are inefficient, unreliable, time consuming and very expensive. The need of a better and low-cost technical approach, that would be able to assess contaminated areas before programing the required remediation actions, has become more intense due to public awareness for the environment.
This project aims to develop a semi-autonomous, remotely controlled robotic system that will deploy three novel sensors for the assessment of soil quality and site characterization. The large contaminated sites will be covered by 100%, presented by fine scale maps of contaminant levels and giving quality and quantity data for the pollutants such as heavy metals and organic solvents. Four different types of sensors (HPU, GPR, optical fibre chemical sensors and SAW) will be integrated to detect efficiently the contaminants in the surface and underground. Data collected from the sensors will be fused, correlated and optimized to provide GPS linked ground 3D images of contaminant distribution. Thus ground property images from different sensors can be combined to produce composite images that can be used also later to during the treatment of soil contamination. Advanced signal processing techniques will be used to obtain the correct interpretation of the data acquired by the sensors and image processing will ameliorate the fused images. The automated inspection soil contamination system will benefit the SMEs involved in NDT, robotics and contamination detection. The applications of POLLINS system will entail:
a) monitoring of agricultural areas where the contamination could affect significantly the growth of plants
b) monitoring of urban public areas such as parks, play grounds etc. where potential pollution could affect significantly the citizens' health
c) monitoring of industrial areas in order to identify concentrations or leakages of pollutants which could have major health impact to the employees, environmental impact to the around premises and negative economic consequences for the related industries.

Project Results:
During the first three months , the identification of specs related to mechanical and software systems, the main soil parameters and other parameters of importance were implemented. A detailed report was developed analyzing the heavy metal and organic soil pollution across EU taking into consideration different soil types and parameters such as pH. It was also identified how soil pollution is transmitted in the ground depth. According to the findings, it was concluded that heavy metal soil pollution travels to the ground until one meter depth. Then the type of ground level changes to rocky and the soil pollution transmission is interrupted. As far as the organic pollution goes, it was found that the travel rate is very slow and can take decades to reach 10 meter depth. Taking into consideration that in the first one meter depth is where the plants and trees grow (O to B Horizon), it was concluded that the one meter depth is of main importance for this project. Having concluded in the main parameters of importance, the specs related to the NDT systems, the software and the robotic system were mentioned in the same report (D1.1.)
During work package 2, high power low frequency ultrasound transducer was developed for the identification of abrupt soil consistency changes due to contamination in the ground, as well as to characterize the transmission acoustic properties of the soil. Different types of soil samples were tested in different conditions (moisture and temperature) to analyze the acoustic signals received. It was found out that the received signals are rather weak (typical attenuation of sound in the soil during experiments was 30-40dB/m) because the soil is not very transparent for propagation of acoustic waves (Deliverable D2.1.) The alternative approach was to analyze the soil properties by the transmission method, using two transducers, rather than by the pulse-echo reflection method that was previously planned.
During Work package 3, a preliminary plan of the software was developed in the first two months (M13-M15).
During Work package 4, the humidity,pH, heavy metal chemical sensors were developed along with Surface Acoustic Wave Sensor model prototype for the identification of organic pollution. The humidity sensor was designed, fabricated and configured in order to identify the soil moisture. Different packages were tested in order to identify the one that will fit better in this application. (Deliverable D4.1.) The pH sensor was developed in order to measure accurately the acidity levels of soil. This is quite important as heavy metal pollution is quite affected by soil pH. During the task 4.2., the optical sensor for pH monitoring was designed, fabricated and configured. (Deliverable D4.2) Additionally, a generic optical fibre sensor design protocol and platform incorporating a series of heavy metal sensors suitable for field use were developed.. In more details, a Cd, Mercury and lead optical fibre sensor were successfully developed. The chemical sensors for Zn, Copper and Mb require further optimization. A washing procedure has been also identified so that sensors of this kind can be re-used. (Deliverable D4.3) A SAW sensor is also under process in order to function as detector of organic contamination in the soil. So far the basic structure of SAW device has been designed, the polymer material for the SAW sensor coating have been identified, the electrochemical properties of the SAW device have been modelled with FEM and the SAW device model prototype have been developed. However, the configuration of the SAW sensor model prototype signals is still under process. (D4.4.)
The main aim of WP5 is the development of the remote controlled robotic vehicle and the integration of the NDT techniques. So far, several existing robotic vehicles that exist in the market have been identified and compared to the requirements for POLLINS project. It was also checked the robotic vehicle – Tracteur suggested from FNA. A robotic vehicle was designed taking into consideration the needs of the sensors that will have to be integrated.
During WP8 (Dissemination activities), a website was developed for Pollins project aiming to disseminate the Pollins results. (Deliverable D8.1) Additionally, a knowledge management seminar was implemented among the partners of the consortium in order to become aware of the strategies that could be followed to reach research, development and marketing goals. Exhaustive patent searches were implemented in order to identify if similar systems currently existing in the market. It was concluded that no similar patents exist with Pollins patents. (Deliverable D8.4) A draft Plan for the Use Dissemination of the Foreground was developed mentioning the main market streams and the profits for SME Associations and the SMEs of utilizing Pollins results. (Deliverable D8.6)The partners of POLLINS project have participated in several conferences, events and dissemination activities. A project flyer and a poster have been created to be used in events and exhibitions. Last a consortium agreement was signed among the partners in month 2 (Deliverable D9.1)
The work packages 6 and 7 have not started yet.

Potential Impact:
Partners have identified 5 potential results of the project .The entire POLLINS system as main result of the project being the most important one, but there are also 4 partial results (sub-systems or components of the system) that are susceptible to be exploited in a separate way. In more details, the main results are the following
1. HPU system (all SME-AGs have equal rights of ownership)
2. Novel suit of chemical sensors (equal rights between SEPVE, TECOS, LCCS, AGPYME and ROBO)
3. Imaging software (equal rights between SEPVE, TECOS, LCCS, AGPYME and ROBO)
4. Robotic vehicle (equal rights between SEPVE, TECOS, LCCS, AGPYME and ROBO)
5. Entire Pollins system (equal rights between SEPVE, TECOS, LCCS, AGPYME and ROBO)
The outcomes of the Pollins project are expected to contribute in the sector of soil pollution monitoring, by introducing a new and effective technique of preventive inspection, achieving also a decrease in the overall cost. This fact will have a clear economic impact on EU economy regarding the overall environmental expenditure. The new technology will upgrade and optimize the inspection of soil pollution, taking also into consideration the worker’s health and safety. Pollins unit will meet the end users’ needs in quality, performance, functionality and flexibility while the cost and the effort will be significantly lower compared to the current situation. The Pollins products’ exploitation will provide growth opportunities and competitive advantages to every involving participant. All the participants will be able to outsource research results, acquire technical know-how and train their members or employees to incorporate new developments, while contributing to EU strategy for economic growth. The SME-AGs will have growth opportunities as they will join the knowledge based economy through IPR ownership and revenue generation from licencing of the projects knowledge, giving them the opportunity to fund additional research on behalf of their members. Moreover the knowledge driven by the project will be used by the SME associations in order to solve problems in different sectors. Finally, each of the association's SME members will have the opportunity to diversify their product and service ranges and attaining significant growth.
According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA) in 2011 between the 39 member countries of the EEA, the soil contamination already detected and requiring cleanup is present at approximately 342.000 sites []. This number is expected to grow: the EEA estimates that if current investigation trends continue, the number of sites needing remediation will increase by 50% by 2025 [EEA 2007]. Only about 15% of these 342.000 sites have been remediated. The innovative tool that the Pollins project will develop, will be initially addressed to a market of approximately 1,500 European SMEs involved in the soil inspection and maintenance sector which will make them more competitive. Additionally, it is expected that the POLLINS technology will benefit economically some EU SMEs involved in other sectors as inspection equipment suppliers (400 in EU), sensor manufacturers (6,700 in EU) and software suppliers (3,600 in EU).
As the POLLINS system life is expected to be long (at least 15 years), and the speed of mapping is much faster (0.2m2/s), the intention of the consortium is to offer the services at a low price. Even more important, POLLINS system costs per measurement at any mapping point would be at least one order of magnitude less than manual systems because of its greatly increased measurement speed. The end-user ordering a soil inspection will save up to 60% of the total survey costs and approximately 70% of the required time to provide results if they chose the POLLINS system. (Deliverable D8.6)

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