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[H2020-Eurostars]: Spanish SME seeks partners to develop optical sensors for detecting heavy metals in water

Country of Origin: Spain
Reference Number: RDES20200611001
Publication Date: 30 July 2020


A Spanish (Basque) SME specialized in the development of customised photonic solutions for all kinds of industrial processes is looking for partners to develop a high sensitivity prototype sensor for detecting heavy metals in water. The company wants to submit a Eurostars proposal and is looking for an R&D partner for further development of the technology within a research agreement..


Near-infrared spectroscopy is a promising alternative to conventional analytical techniques for monitoring water quality in many natural and industrial environments. The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include, as part of the Goal 6 on water and sanitation for all, a specific target to improve water quality. Consequently, improved water quality monitoring will be essential in the evaluation of progress towards the achievement of this SDG target.

Currently, the company is working on the design and manufacture of an interferometric sensor based on optical fibre for the detection of heavy metals (copper and lead) in water. Preliminary tests indicate that the sensor can detect and quantify these heavy metals selectively and in real-time. Its principle of operation is based on optical interference, which allows detecting concentrations from 3,3*10E-13 mol/l. Besides, the fact that it is based on optical fibre, makes the sensor a micrometric-scale size (125 µm).

A proof of concept of the sensor has been carried out in the laboratory and it is currently at TRL3. The objective for the first year of the project is to develop a prototype that allows the company to reach a TRL5, so that in a future step, the sensor performance can be checked in a relevant environment to demonstrate this simple, reliable and fast solution to assure the quality and safety of water regarding heavy metals pollution.

The company is looking for a partner who can help them develop the technology in order to reach higher TRL-s. For that purpose, the company seeks R&D-performing SMEs, technology centres and university groups with expertise in optics so as to develop the product to reach the market. Thus, the main objective would be to improve the developed solution. The development of sensors capable of detecting other heavy metals apart from copper and lead would also be interesting.

The Eurostars funding programme supports international innovative projects led by R&D-performing SMEs.

The projects minimum budget must be about 175.000€ and the grant may reach 50% of the total budget.

Deadline for EoI: 14 august 2020
Deadline for Call: 3 September 2020
Project duration: 24 months

Advantages and Innovations

Photonic sensors are characterised by their high sensitivity, short response time, specificity, and relatively low production cost. In addition to these characteristics, they can perform continuous monitoring of water providing a real-time measurement of different analytes as heavy metals. Other important advantages of the sensors are their reduced size and the possibility to analyse different types of heavy metals at the same time.
Preliminary tests carried out have shown that the SME's sensor is capable of detecting copper concentrations in water, three orders of magnitude lower than any other technique currently available. Furthermore, it is capable of doing it selectively and in less than a minute.

Stage Of Development

Project already started

Stage Of Development Comment

A proof of concept of the sensor has been carried out in the laboratory and it is currently at TRL3.

Requested partner

The company is looking for clients and collaborations in R&D projects, preferably specialist R&D-performing SMEs, R&D centres or Universities. As the expectation is to reach TRL5 by the end of the first year of the project, the role of the partner sought would be to help develope and improve the prototype of the optical sensor so as to reach higher TRL-s. The partner will not be involved in the validation process at first glance. 

The development of sensors capable of detecting other heavy metals apart from copper and lead would be interesting also.

Cooperation offer is closed for requests