The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Research Foundation (UWMRF) has brokered an agreement with a Milwaukee-area water company, Advanced Chemical Systems, Inc., which is interested in research developed by a UWM scientist – a fiber optic sensor system for water quality monitoring.
The project could lead to important new tools for controlling water quality, but it also demonstrates how UWM’s basic science capabilities can meet the needs of regional water industries.
Advanced Chemical Systems, Inc. (ACS) will work with Peter Geissinger, UWM associate professor of chemistry, to determine if Geissinger’s system would be effective in delivering real-time water analysis. Geissinger’s research on this system has been funded in part by a Bradley Foundation Catalyst Grant through the UWMRF.
The option agreement provides that once the sensors have been tested for concept, ACS may then refine the system and bring it to market.
Advanced sensors for water quality and environmental monitoring is one of the key technologies identified by many of the 120 water-related companies in the Milwaukee regional “water cluster.”
“This illustrates a great deal of what we’re trying to accomplish under the umbrella of the Water Council – pairing good basic science at UWM with an ‘industry pull’ to help bring it to market,” said Brian Thompson, president of the UWM Research Foundation.
In Geissinger’s system, certain impurities are attached to optical fibers that are immersed in water. The impurities will then interact with the molecules of interest in the water. Laser light pulses are sent down the optical fiber and absorbed differently depending on whether the interaction is taking place.
ACS, a provider of industrial waste water treatment, is interested in the system because it could expedite the analysis of water samples taken during treatment. Currently, water samples are sent out for analysis and it may take weeks to obtain results. Geissinger’s technology has the potential to provide continuous monitoring of water quality.
“Dr. Geissinger’s Fiber Optic Sensor Array could significantly improve how environmental, process control and field testing is performed,” says Chris Fox, vice president of sales and marketing for Advanced Chemical Systems, Inc. “We are eager to work with UWM researchers to further develop the technology and ultimately take it to commercialization.”
The project may allow the company to apply for funding through the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant program for the development of new products. Geissinger would be able to use preliminary data from the project to seek additional federal funding.
Geissinger joined the UWM faculty in 1998. His work also has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the State of Wisconsin Groundwater Research and Monitoring program. He has a U.S. patent for a one-dimensional sensing array which can provide spatially resolved measurements along the length of an optical fiber.