The current state-of-the-art for autonomous environmental instruments monitoring the chemical and biological status of our water is based on flow systems that employ conventional approaches to sample/liquid handling, which makes them prohibitively expensive (often in excess of €20,000 per unit) in terms of up-scaling deployments. This project will investigate ways to deliver revolutionary advances in liquid/sample handling combined with new approaches to performing sensitive in-situ analytical measurements. Our goal is to drive down the unit cost of these instruments by orders of magnitude to levels that can create a tipping point, at which the technology becomes ubiquitous.


  • Novel technologies that will contribute significantly to the realization of next generation autonomous analytical instruments for distributed environmental monitoring.
  • New services based on the information generated by these instruments in real deployment scenarios.
  • Photoactuated polymer valve structures fully integrated within microfluidic channels.
  • Highly sensitive detector integrated with microfluidics sample preparation.
  • Photocontrolled functions such as filtering, preconcentration, uptake and release, surface activation/passivation.

Prototype components will be integrated with existing autonomous sensing devices, and after lab based trials deployed at wastewater treatment plants and in the general environment. This strategy will enable risk to be managed by testing the novel biomimetic fluid handling components with existing detectors (e.g. colorimetric methods for nutrients). In a similar manner, a novel E coli sensor will be assessed using validated fluid handling technologies in the existing devices. This strategy will allow the biomimetic fluid handling and advanced detector elements of the research programme to advance independently, or collaboratively, depending on progress.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no. 604241