Nav: Home

UBC researchers test 3-D-printed water quality sensor

July 19, 2017

Researchers at UBC's Okanagan campus have designed a tiny device --built using a 3D printer--that can monitor drinking water quality in real time and help protect against waterborne illness.

Prof. Mina Hoorfar, Director of the School of Engineering, says new research proves their miniaturized water quality sensors are cheap to make, can operate continuously and can be deployed anywhere in the water distribution system.

"Current water safety practice involves only periodic hand testing, which limits sampling frequency and leads to a higher probably of disease outbreak," says Hoorfar. "Traditional water quality sensors have been too expensive and unreliable to use across an entire water system."

Until now, that is. Tiny devices created in her Advanced Thermo-Fluidic lab at UBC's Okanagan campus, are proving reliable and sturdy enough to provide accurate readings regardless of water pressure or temperature. The sensors are wireless, reporting back to the testing stations, and work independently--meaning that if one stops working, it does not bring down the whole system. And since they're made using 3D printers, they are fast, inexpensive and easy to produce.

"This highly portable sensor system is capable of constantly measuring several water quality parameters such as turbidity, pH, conductivity, temperature, and residual chlorine, and sending the data to a central system wirelessly," she adds. "It is a unique and effective technology that can revolutionize the water industry."

While many urban purification plants have real-time monitoring sensors, they are upstream of the distribution system. Often, Hoorfar notes, the pressure at which water is supplied to the customer is much higher than what most sensors can tolerate. But her new sensors can be placed right at or within a customer's home, providing a direct and precise layer of protection against unsafe water.

And when things go wrong, they can end tragically. More than 17 years ago, four people died, and hundreds became ill, after drinking E.coli-affected water in Walkerton, Ontario.

"Although the majority of water-related diseases occur in lower- or middle-income countries, water quality events in Walkerton, for example, raise serious questions about consistent water safety in even developed countries like Canada," says Hoorfar. "Many of these tragedies could be prevented with frequent monitoring and early detection of pathogens causing the outbreak."
-end-
This research, recently published in Sensors, was partly funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada Strategic Project Grant and Postgraduate Scholarship funding.

University of British Columbia Okanagan campus

Related Drinking Articles:

How serious is binge drinking among college students with disabilities?
A new study finds that college students with disabilities binge drink more often than their non-disabled student peers.
How to prevent lying and drinking in teens, according to research
Adolescents who have a greater tendency to lie to their parents are also more likely to start using alcohol at an earlier age, while excessive parental supervision may aggravate rather than solve the problem.
Effective intervention for binge drinking in adolescents
An intervention program based on school class groups has a preventive effect on subsequent drinking behavior, especially binge drinking, in adolescents who had previously consumed alcohol.
Does marriage affect drinking? A new study provides insights
Need to drink less? Get married, according to a new study.
Does discrimination increase drinking?
Researchers at the University of Iowa have found another negative health outcome linked to discrimination: alcohol abuse.
More Drinking News and Drinking Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.