ORNL's AquaSentinel Licensed to an East Tennessee Start Up Company
A Tennessee startup, SecureWaters Inc., recently licensed technology developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to monitor the safety of water supplies. Municipal, military and other governmental organizations that are responsible for safeguarding water supplies now have access to this water monitoring technology, called AquaSentinel, which offers around-the-clock detection of waterborne toxic agents.
Ray Slatton, CEO of SecureWaters Inc., said AquaSentinel could help protect reservoirs, lakes and streams that furnish drinking water supplies. “The focus on homeland security has led to an increased awareness of the water supply’s vulnerability to accidental contamination and bioterrorist attacks,” Slatton said.
AquaSentinel, developed by Elias Greenbaum of ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division, uses naturally occurring algae that act as tiny biosensors. Like microscopic canaries in a coal mine, the algae provide an early warning of water contamination by responding to toxins with variations in their photosynthetic behavior. Fluorometer measurements capture any photosynthetic changes in the algae, and the resulting data are then transferred by encrypted wireless telecommunications to a remote facility, where operators can respond to any potential threats. “It uses the fundamental principles of photosynthesis and state-of-the-art optoelectric instrumentation to provide continuous, unattended protection of all sunlight exposed primary source drinking water supplies,” Greenbaum said. Because algae naturally grow in all water that is exposed to light, the monitoring technique is applicable for detection purposes in all reservoirs, rivers and lakes that serve as drinking water supply sources.
In addition to its applications in threat detection, AquaSentinel can be used as a tool for companies or utilities to demonstrate environmental compliance. The generated monitoring data is archived for 30 days, allowing users to access historical measurements and see if water quality standards are within mandated limits. “With AquaSentinel, facilities can continually monitor their own effluent in a cost-effective manner,” Slatton said. “This technology eliminates the need for personnel to randomly collect water samples in the field as it does not require special training and is self-operating and self-cleaning.”