Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 2 - MARIABOX (MARINE environmental in situ Assessment and monitoring tool BOX)

Project Context and Objectives:
Due to growing concerns about the health of the oceans and their capacity to continue to provide resources as well as associated risks to the human health, there is an increasing demand for real-time monitoring of the environmental status of marine water quality and the provision of early warning systems. As commercially available sensors tend to be too large, expensive, and power-hungry for widespread use, reducing the cost for acquisition of data is a key priority in order to implement EU legislations.
Biosensors are defined as compact, analytical devices that incorporate a biological or biologically derived sensing element either integrated within, or intimately associated with a physico-chemical transducer. For environmental applications biosensors must compete with traditional techniques such as immunoassays, chemical test kits and laboratory testing. Portability and miniaturization are two aspects desirable for environmental biosensors since they could enable field use.
MariaBox will develop a wireless marine environment analysis device for monitoring chemical and biological pollutants while installed into a buoy, a maritime means of transport or a mooring. During the project, its use will be demonstrated in two different buoys and one ferry. A portable version of the device will also be available. The device, based on novel biosensors, will be of high-sensitivity, portable and capable of repeating measurements over a long time, allowing permanent deployment at sea. The device will have a novel design to allow for minimal operator visits at its physical location in the sea. It will have different biosensor-based modules for different sets of analytes (man-made pollutants, toxins of biological origin) to test and proof the use for different marine activities. The MariaBox system will be power autonomous, using solar cells and wind/wave energy harvesting technologies. System dimensions will be compact with respect to today’s standards. MariaBox will offer data compatibility to the INSPIRE directive, as well as to Copernicus, GOOS and SeaDataNet, in order to facilitate access for all stakeholders.

Main project objectives
• To develop new biosensors to monitor selected chemicals and toxins. Biosensors will be developed for 4 categories of man-made chemicals and for 4 categories of microalga toxins relevant to shell fish and fish farming
• To produce a marine pollution-monitoring device, based on the new biosensors, implemented as a set of autonomous modules for the analysis of marine pollutants and the assessment of water quality. The system will be suitable for free floating devices, buoys, ships, or to be used as a portable instrument
• To develop a software platform and smartphone application for the marine monitoring and GOOS/GEOSS data collection and distribution so to be almost real-time available and interfaced to Copernicus
• To establish a fully inter-operable MariaBox with existing observing systems and compatible with standard requirements such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the INSPIRE directive
• To design and develop the MariaBox automatic calibration procedure and sensor replacement mechanism to ensure long term autonomous deployment
• To prove the validity of the system in real and varying conditions in Norway, Cyprus, Ireland and Spain
• To contribute in the development of new environmental monitoring standards. The increased spatio-temporal data availability, in combination with the longer operation period of MariaBox (with respect to currently available systems) will promote the development of new, stricter, environmental monitoring standards.
• To create a cost-effective system, suitable for large-scale production and exploitable as a commercially viable set of products.
• To prepare publications and to participate in conferences & trade fairs for the presentation of the MariaBox

Project Results:
The first main task performed was the definition of user requirements for both the MariaBox system and the pilots. A questionnaire was prepared for collecting these requirements. The information collected includes current practices and specific user needs related to the MariaBox development. The pilot sites descriptions were also prepared. The requirements were then analysed and translated into technical specifications. Specifications were also prepared for the system software and mobile application. A preliminary risk evaluation was also performed and the preliminary system design was prepared, according to the specifications. The preliminary design includes 3D drawings of all MariaBox modules.
In parallel with the aforementioned activities, the data management framework and the related regulatory issues were studied. The results of these activities were incorporated in the preliminary design. Data management standards and regulations applicable to MariaBox at International and country-specific levels were collected. A report was also prepared outlining: a) current methods for the measurement of pollutants present in marine water, b) regulatory issues related to the monitoring of the selected analytes and c) relevant performance criteria for the analysis of the selected analytes. The report produced will be periodically updated.
After defining the system specifications, the MariaBox device hardware design and development started. As a first step, the necessary interfaces between the various modules were studied. These interfaces include the necessary connections for all the electronics, for the biosensors as well as for the communication and power modules. The MariaBox communication and power modules were the first to be designed and developed. These modules have been designed in a modular way, allowing the reuse of the communication infrastructures as well as the power modules already available in the buoys and in the ferry that will be used for the validation of the MariaBox system. Both modules can be considered “external” to the main MariaBox device, in order to allow any other available communication or power module to be used with the device in the future. Additionally, the design of the main electronic components of the MariaBox device has been concluded. This design is currently used for the development of the device electronics. In parallel, the pre-analytical module and the biosensor disc are also being developed. Each biosensors disc will be used for 3 days before being discarded.
In parallel with the device hardware, the MariaBox software platform and mobile application are being developed. Several functionalities have already been implemented. A user interface is available and has been shared with the consortium for review and feedback. Currently, the list of commands and the protocol for data exchange between the MariaBox software platform, the MariaBox device and the mobile application are being finalised. The MariaBox mobile application will be an Android App that communicates directly with the device through Wi-Fi or USB. It will be used to update the device firmware and to configure various parameters.
Biosensor development activities are also ongoing. Major effort was dedicated to the identification of the Molecular Recognition Elements (MREs). Biosensors are currently being developed for Naphthalene, PFOS, Campheclor, Saxitoxin, Microcystin, Azaspiracid and Domoic acid. A generic heavy metals biosensor is also being developed.
Furthermore, the way that MariaBox will be integrated in the buys is also being studied. Requirements have been collected and an upgraded version of partner SGX’s buy has been designed. Finally, the dissemination & communication plan was prepared. The project website and social network accounts have been setup and are regularly updated. A workshop was organised, with the participation of all 9 projects from OCEAN-1&2 topics, as well as a representative of the EC. Additional intra-projects meetings were also organised. During the first workshop, a proposal by the MariaBox coordinator for creating a web platform for communication and information exchange between the 9 projects was accepted and implemented. MariaBox has also been presented in selected conferences and events during 2015. The MariaBox Business Interest Group (BIG) was formed, consisting, for the moment, of 10 members.

Potential Impact:
The MariaBox project will produce a marine pollution-monitoring device, based on new biosensors, implemented as a set of autonomous modules for the analysis of marine pollutants and the assessment of water quality. The system will be suitable for free floating devices, buoys, ships, or to be used as a portable instrument. Within the project, novel biosensors will also be developed for monitoring 4 man-made chemicals (including a generic heavy metals sensor) and 4 categories of microalgae toxins, as well as a software platform and smartphone application for the marine monitoring and GOOS/GEOSS data collection and distribution so to be almost real-time available and interfaced to Copernicus.
The MariaBox platform will also provide technical tools in order to support the National implementations of the Discharge of dangerous substances directive (Directive 76/464/EEC) and the article 16 of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) that sets out "Strategies against pollution of water". MariaBox will also emphasise on reaching the general public and maximizing project impact: Video material will be developed for use in International Exhibitions and TV documentaries, including Euronews Innovation Showcase. Multiple dissemination actions, involving presentations in conferences, participation in Trade Fairs, newsletters publication and social media actions are also foreseen in the work programme. Equally important is that a key MariaBox objective is to prepare a cost effective solution to be exploited commercially. The device design will be optimized in cost, size, and power consumption to offer a suitable solution for large-scale production. Cost effectiveness is targeted through various aspects, such as the 6-month use period of the biosensor and an automatic sensor calibration and replacement mechanism.
The MariaBox project provides the tools for Environmental Institutions, Agencies and professionals to acquire independent environmental data and knowledge in the frame of a participatory approach in which the environmental community-based approach feeds also information to decision makers and scientific institutions. The lower target cost of the MariaBox system, in combination with its target of 6-month autonomous operation period will allow a continuous monitoring of the seas for much longer intervals in comparison with today’s standards. Because of the relatively low cost, many MariaBox systems may be used in various scenarios (buoys, boats, free-floating devices, etc.). Four pilot MariaBox sites will be setup during the project to cover different areas with different characteristics (Cyprus, Ireland, Norway and Spain). The data will be standardised in order to be directly usable by any interested end-user.
The new capability in terms of easy deployable, mobile, cheap and durable marine water quality monitoring, brings about new capacities that should be reflected in new standards for water quality analysis. The MariaBox foresees adequate advocacy actions toward the EU Commission and towards National Authorities of the participating partners’ countries as well as toward the ISO committees involved in Marine Water Quality standards. Methods of water quality assessments based on biosensors developed within MariaBox project, may be proposed as supplementary methods according to EU regulations.
Regarding the impact on EU economy, the SMEs in the consortium play a crucial role in the final system development. They are also well balanced in terms of exploitation objectives. Through the development of the MariaBox system, the SMEs will strengthen their market position, not only in Europe, but also globally. The SMEs’ network of distributorship in all continents around the globe and representation in more than 55 countries will ensure the commercial success of MariaBox product and services.

List of Websites:

Related information

Reported by

Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top