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A real-time water monitor for contaminants in produced water

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0023760
Agency Tracking Number: 0000272530
Amount: $256,500.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: C56-28a
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, and
ensuring this access for generations to come will involve developing novel approaches to determining
the safety and composition of water that are practical and affordable. A vast array of
toxins are prevalent throughout the country’s drinking water, and the oil and gas industry has
effects on water quality that are still not fully understood. For example, there has been increased
interest and scrutiny into the impacts that the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) water cycle has
on drinking water resources in the United States, and there are numerous harmful chemicals that
have been discovered in groundwater near fracking sites. However, current testing for most critical
contaminants is typically limited to sporadic sample collection for laboratory analysis. Not
only is this process costly, but it is inefficient, making it difficult to monitor water with high spatial
or temporal resolution. Real-time, deployable sensing technologies are essential to address
these needs as well as to contribute to a more quantitative understanding of the dynamics that
contribute to the environmental sustainability of the Nation’s water and energy systems.
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 a suite of heavy metal and nutrient contaminants,
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
methanol, toluene, and benzene as well as a highly trained AI-based computational platform to
discern and discriminate between contaminants and quantify individual analytes in complex water
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 Advanced Remediation
Technologies Program, which develops technologies to be applied to the remediation
and prevention of environmental impacts from the recovery of fossil energy resources, the goal
for this proposal will be to demonstrate technical feasibility of this sensor to quantitatively measure
methanol, toluene, and benzene in a real-time, in-line platform capable of handling complex
background water and running for long time periods without oversight or calibration needed. Ultimately,
the goal of this project is to commercialize a robust sensor that not only meets the needs
of the DOE programs and the growing needs for technologies to ensure safe drinking water, but
is also broadly marketable.

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

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