Water JPI Joint Call (Step2) - 2018 Joint Call: Closing the Water Cycle Gap - Sustainable Management of Water Resources (Step2)

Sense and Purify : Detect, Destroy and Remove Water Contaminants – Sense and Purify, SPy

SPy Sense and Purify

There is a growing recognition that powerful treatments for wastewater are needed that can process diverse biological and synthetic organic compounds and can be implemented at the point of production. Sense and Purify is a radically new technology that uses electronically conducting diamond particles within an electric field (wireless electrochemistry) to create hydroxyl radicals throughout the water volume in a highly efficient way.

Wireless electrochemical treatment of waste water.

OBJECTIVE 1 Sensors For Wastewater. We will develop rapidly responding, low cost, highly sensitive sensors for pathogens and recalcitrant organics such as antibiotics and herbicides.<br />OBJECTIVE 2 Diamond Particles For Wastewater Treatment. Our objective is to convert a wide range of cellular and organic pollutants to CO2, NH2 and H2O so that the treated water can be reused in industrial processes.<br />OBJECTIVE 3 Integrated Reactor. We will use rapid prototyping techniques, including 3D printing/additive manufacturing, to create a reactor capable of testing and treating 10 litres of wastewater per hour.<br />OBJECTIVE 4 Real World Wastewater Testing. Working closely with industry beneficiaries, the performance of the reactor that integrates sensing and wastewater treatment will be tested using water samples from the food and pharmaceutical industries.

We have designed the electrochemiluminescent sensor system for detecting pathogens. The Consortium has: 1. Created electrodes whose surface is modified with immobilised antibodies 2. Demonstrated selective capture of E. coli from water samples. 3. Functionalised secondary antibodies with luminescent dyes and allowed them to bind to the captured E. coli bacteria. 4. Generated electrochemiluminescence whose brightness depends on the concentration of E. coli present in the water sample. Boron Doped Diamond (BDD) electrodes have been characterised and optimised for the determination and electro-decomposition of nevirapine (NVP) and tenofovir (TNF). Cyclic voltammetry (CV) was used to study the amperometric responses for nevirapine and tenofovir drugs in phosphate buffer (PB) and Britton-Robinson (BR) buffer as electrolytes. We haves made significant progress on the use of UV-Vis spectroscopy as a cost effective, real time approach to monitoring the concentration of the parent pharmaceuticals (primarily anti-cancer drugs) and for monitoring their degradation over time. We also focused on the synthesis of the molecular ECL luminophores and especially dye doped silica nanoparticles (DDSN) as luminescent sensors for application in ECL-based assays for targeted pollutants. DDSN have proven to be stable, non-toxic and efficient ECL based probes. The synthetic strategy for DDSN relies on the co-condensation of alkoxysilane bearing dyes with silica precursors in presence of surfactants yielding the desired DDSN. We modelled the hydroxyl radical concentration profiles around the BDD particles to identify the optimum concentration of particles in suspension relative to the concentration of the organic pollutant. We have investigated the hydroxyl radical concentration as a function of distance from the particle surface where the contaminant concentration varies from 1.0 ?M to 0.25 M

The programme has been very successful during the first 18 months. For example, we have developed new electrochemiluminescent dyes that generate light when an appropriate potential is applied, and a co-reactant is present. These dyes have been used to create a new antibody based electrochemiluminescent sensor that can detect as few as 100 E. coli bacteria in one millilitre of water! Boron Doped Diamond (BDD) electrodes have been explored for the simultaneous detection and destruction of pharmaceuticals, e.g., antiretrovirals, that are challenging to remove using conventional approaches. We have made significant progress to optimise the composition of the BDD particles in order to maximise the rate at which the hydroxyl radicals are produced which decompose the pollutants. These systems are capable of decomposing recalcitrant organic pharmaceuticals, such as the anti-cancer drugs doxorubicin and gemcitabine, within six hours! We have also developed in silico models of the radical generation process that are guiding the design of the reactor.

The ultimate objective of the programme is to create a reactor with integrated sensors/spectroscopy that measures the pollutants in the incoming water stream, decomposes organics within the water while monitoring the efficiency of the treatment and produces water that can either be reused within the manufacturing process, e.g., pharmaceutical or food production, or discharged. This programme directly impacts UN SDG Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all. The ability to locally produce clean water from wastewater for industry or drinking at low capital and operating cost is very significant. To enhance innovation capacity and integration of new knowledge prototype reactors will be demonstrated for the treatment of production wastewaters from the food (NU) as well as pharmaceutical industries (DCU). We are also impacting on education through a series of measures including school visits, public outreach articles and social media.

One publication in international peer reviewed journal.
One publication focused on general public.
Eight school visits.

SENSE AND PURIFY will transform water treatment by developing an integrated device that measures the organic and pathogen contaminants present in real waste water (URV, UWC, NU, DCU) then destroys recalcitrant organics and pathogens using a “wireless” advanced oxidation strategy (DCU, NU, UWC) and confirms the quality of the treated water (URV, NU, DCU). Unlike all existing approaches where reactive species capable of destroying organics and bacteria occurs only at an electrode surface, our approach creates highly destructive/energetic radicals throughout the entire volume of the waste water stream dramatically decreasing the time required to destroy the impurities and ensuring the production of clean water. This eco-innovative TRL 4/5 technology brings together key recent advances by team members to create significant advantages including lower capital, operations and maintenance costs, reduced energy consumption, higher conversion efficiency, easier operation, better effluent water quality, and lower waste production. To accelerate and enhance its industry relevance, we will demonstrate the industrial utility of the approach by creating a waste water treatment reactor for the local purification of production water in the food and pharmaceutical industries as well as treating municipal water.

Project coordination

robert forster (Dublin City University, National Centre for Sensor Research)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


URV Universitat Rovira i Virgili
DCU Dublin City University, National Centre for Sensor Research
UWC University of the Western Cape
AITASA daniel montserrat

Help of the ANR 247,752 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2019 - 36 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter