Development of Mobile Self-Powered Sensors for Potable Water Distribution

EPA Grant Number: R834868
Title: Development of Mobile Self-Powered Sensors for Potable Water Distribution
Investigators: Banks, M. Katherine , Pekarek, Steve , Porterfield, Marshall
Current Investigators: Banks, M. Katherine , Brovont, Aaron D , Jefferson, Travis , Pekarek, Steve , Porterfield, Marshall , Salim, Amani , Wu, Ruoxi
Institution: Purdue University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Project Period: January 1, 2011 through December 31, 2013 (Extended to December 31, 2014)
Project Amount: $599,997
RFA: Advancing Public Health Protection through Water Infrastructure Sustainability (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Drinking Water , Water


The goal of this project is to design, fabricate and test a self-powered mobile microsensor network for monitoring critical parameters in the security and reliability of municipal finished water distribution networks. Multiple numbers of individual multifunctional sensors will be released into a water distribution system and will be capable of conducting continuous measurements and reporting measurement data as they move in the flow stream. The wireless network will interact with the freely moving sensors. Sensor analyte targets will be organized into suites to cover water quality (temperature, O2, pH), disinfection (chlorine) and trace contaminants (lead, copper, cadmium, arsenic, nitrate). This technology also has homeland security applications (intentionally introduced toxins). While the intellectual merit of this proposal is in the overall integration of advanced sensing and sensor networking to address concerns in municipal water distribution systems today, the innovation contained within the three topical areas covered by this effort should not be overlooked. These include advances in basic sensor technology, wireless networking of dynamic sensors, and innovative technologies for water quality monitoring.


The individual sensor device will involve integration of porous analytical microsensors, MEMS based microfluidic sampling, data acquisition, digital wireless communication, and power generation. Transducer, data acquisition, and wireless transmitter technology will be based on off-the-shelf components. Innovation in sensing will be based in the use of nanomaterials for advanced micro/nano porous sensor elements. Porous materials will be the analytical foundation for the fabrication of nanoflow microlaboratory sensors (NMS), based on the integration of PMSC elements with microfluidic subsystems. The microfluidics will transport sample fluids into the porous sensing composite. Based on surface area and analyte mobility, limits in sensitivity associated with current sensing technology can be exceeded.

Expected Results:

Sensors will be specifically developed to operate in chemically complex and dynamic environments. Although fixed sensors have been marketed for limited in-situ water quality monitoring, they do not allow for continuous evaluation of the entire system. By providing data continuously at all locations, mobile sensors will provide real-time information that could prevent serious environmental and human health consequences. Effects of flow characteristics on sensor response and initial testing of the networks will be assessed in model water distribution systems at Purdue University and EPA. Results will be used to provide operational guidance to municipal water treatment plants and to provide a higher level of water security in finished water distribution systems.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 15 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 3 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Contamination, Drinking Water, Sensors, Water Distribution System, Potable Water Distribution, Security of Drinking Water System,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011 Progress Report
  • 2012 Progress Report
  • 2013 Progress Report
  • Final Report