Activity reports 2016-2018
Papers & Conferences
PhD Students contributions
The project proposes to develop a new energy autonomous system based on micro (photo)electrochemical sensors and ultra-thin solar cells (UTSC), for detection of different ionic species in natural water sources. It focuses on three directions: new materials with high efficiency in solar energy harvesting and fabrication of small UTSC together with the power stabilizing device able to supply the needed voltage to the sensors and electronics module; new microsensors and materials for detection of nitrites/nitrates and heavy metals in water; low cost autonomous energy system integration and fabrication.
The solar energy harvester will include a thin solar cell (< 300 μm thick) and a dedicated storage and power stabilizing device. An area of about 5-10 cm2 will provide about 50–100 mW, enough to charge the rechargeable battery for powering the sensors. The overall system will use another few Watts for data transmission and display, thus a total array of 20x20cm2 solar cells will be developed.
The microsensors for nitrates/nitrites and heavy metals will be of (photo)electrochemical type, miniaturized, fully integrated, fabricated by micro–nano technology and connected to the electronic module that provides detection, data acquisition and interpretation. The data will also be displayed on the portable apparatus. The microsensors for nitrates/nitrites and heavy metals will be of (photo)electrochemical type, miniaturized, fully integrated, fabricated by micro–nano technology and connected to the electronic module that provides detection, data acquisition and interpretation. The data will also be displayed on the portable apparatus.
Each (photo)electrochemical microsensor will have three types of electrodes: working, counter and reference, 2D integrated on the same substrate. For optimizing the sensors dimensions, power consumption and performance, several solutions will be considered: sensors with multiple working electrodes, sensor arrays or networks. A photo-electrochemical sensor will be developed as a VIS-active composite based on ceramic semiconductors. A biosensor based on sensing protein molecules, flagellar filaments with specificity to heavy metals will be integrated in the apparatus with data acquisition and display on the same electronic platform.
The materials proposed to be optimized as primary option are SnO2, TiO2 and ZnO for the sensors while for the solar cells two routes will be followed: (a) TiO2, ZnO and CuxS, and (b) CZTS, CuxS and TiO2 for the solar cell electrodes. The pristine and doped thin films will be prepared by a broad variety of deposition techniques (magnetron sputtering, spray pyrolysis, sol-gel, hydrothermal synthesis) and will have different morphologies (nanowires, nanotubes, spheres) allowing to select the most efficient and cost-effective systems for the PV and according to the best sensitivity and selectivity for the photo-electrochemical sensor. Polymeric membranes deposited by electrochemical Cyclic Voltammetry on the working electrode will also be investigated as sensing material for nitrites/nitrates and heavy metals. Bacterial flagellar filaments (special protein molecules) will be engineered as sensitive biolayer for heavy metal detection.
The goals of the project are to develop an integrated materials–technology–product–system concept, demonstrator and prototype for eliminating or minimising the use of chemical batteries, other energy sources, or complex wiring in microsensors, increasing the autonomy of sensors, systems and networks, to provide affordable energy technologies with low CO2 emissions and to deliver a portable, autonomous apparatus for water monitoring (detection of nitrates/nitrites, heavy metals).
The project will bring innovation in the area of device design, technology development, material development and characterization and integration of microsensors.
The project will provide a technology demonstrator and water monitoring system prototype.
Minimum one patent and several scientific papers will be submitted, two doctoral theses and two workshops will be organised in the frame of the project.
From the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) point of view, the project will start from TRL2 (Technology Concept Formulated) and it is expected to reach TRL6 (Demonstration in relevant)