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A remote, real-time sensor for groundwater remediation monitoring

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0023757
Agency Tracking Number: 0000272177
Amount: $206,500.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: C56-22b
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0002903
Solicitation Year: 2023
Award Year: 2023
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2023-07-10
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2024-07-09
Small Business Information
6185 Cornerstone Ct E STE 107
San Diego, CA 92121-4726
United States
DUNS: 962670126
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Scott Cookson
 (858) 344-7490
Business Contact
 Natalie Cookson
Phone: (858) 344-7490
Research Institution

Access to clean, reliable water supplies is critical to our quality of life and our economy, yet across the country over 100,000 hazardous waste sites are so heavily contaminated that the underlying groundwater doesn’t meet drinking water standards. The contaminants at these sites range from common water toxins, such as lead and arsenic, to other heavy metals, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and even radionuclides, such as uranium and cesium. Measuring contamination is critical to monitoring and maintenance strategies to verify cleanup performance at contaminated sites, but current testing is mostly limited to sporadic sample collection for laboratory analysis. Not only is this process costly, but it is inefficient, making it difficult to monitor contamination with high spatial or temporal resolution. As a result, current methods often do not capture the full complexity of how contaminants behave in the environment and how their levels change over time, making it difficult to track and validate remediation efforts. The goal of this proposal is to develop and demonstrate the technical feasibility of an in-line sensor that can reliably provide real-time, continuous, quantitative measurements of a suite of contaminants. The Qube sensor can currently detect arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, and uranium, but due to the use of microbes as sensor units and the team’s synthetic biology expertise, the platform can be expanded to detect a vast range of contaminants. A customized optics and image processing platform translates these cell signals into quantitative information about the level of each target present. This Phase I project will develop new sensing capabilities for nickel and acetate as well as a highly trained AI-based computational platform to discern and discriminate between contaminants and quantify individual analytes in complex water backgrounds. The ability to detect many targets simultaneously and to do so in real time is a major advantage of the proposed sensor over existing technologies. Given the priorities of the DOE Office of Environmental Management as well as other DOE programs with remediation needs, the goal for this proposal will be to demonstrate technical feasibility of the sensor to quantitatively measure nickel and acetate in a real-time, online platform capable of handling complex background water and running for long time periods without oversight or calibration needed. When combined with other existing strains and when developed into a robust, deployable package, the biosensor platform will have the ability to provide invaluable data regarding the types and amounts of critical contaminants in groundwater in a continuous fashion. Not only will this sensor have a major impact on remediation efforts and human health, it will also have commercial applications in the broader water safety sector as well as for monitoring and optimizing agricultural and industrial operations.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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