Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Water Quality Monitoring

The theme of this year’s Hackaday Prize is to build something that matters, and there is nothing more important than water quality and pollution. Everything we eat and drink is influenced by the water quality in rivers and reservoirs. C4Derpillar, a semifinalist for the Hackaday Prize, is solving the problems of water-related health issues with innovative sensors for under $500 USD per unit.

The C4Derpiller is using capillary electrophoresis (CE) to detect anions and cations in waterways. CE pulls a water sample through a very thin tube with an electric current. As water is moving through this capillary, a sensor is able to detect heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants in a water supply. The team behind C4Derpiller has written a few posts about the separation chemistry of their device

Commercial CE equipment costs tens of thousands of dollars. The team behind the C4Derpillar are hoping to develop their pollution monitoring device and make it available for about $500 USD. That’s cheap enough for multiple pollution monitoring stations in the third world, and by pushing the results to the cloud, the C4Derpillar will be able to monitor pollution in real time.

You can check out C4Derpillar’s Hackaday Prize video below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

11 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Water Quality Monitoring

  1. I wonder how much money (if any) would be saved by getting rid of the wifi/gsm aspect of it? ‘The Cloud’ is great for a room full of marketing reps or NGO big wigs but if not having the feature saves money, why offer it. Just the ‘disposable’ CE data logger would be useful in many academic settings, no need to invoke ‘the cloud’ since site monitoring is more than just chemical data.

    1. Have no fear – we will have a full-featured device, aimed at researchers. And a low-cost (but same analysis hardware) version specifically for water monitoring. That, combined with buying the parts in lots of 100 etc will substantially reduce the cost. :)

    2. In addition to what Taylor said, the real power of this device is not as a standalone unit but as part of a wider network. By integrating with the cloud the complexity of the device can be minimised and analysis can be approached collaboratively within the community. Combining water quality data from around the world into a single repository will provide a rich data source of control groups and comparable studies to increase the confidence we have when investigating pollution events and forming intervention strategies.

      Thanks for the feedback :) If you would like any further detail please message or comment on our project page, or send me an email.

    1. I feel like the target consumer is government or charity organizations, rather than individuals. Many individuals would only need to results of a single monitoring station, which would tell them if the need the charcoal filter or not.

  2. Could this device be used to monitor the different chemicals and proportions used in hydroponics? If so I’d spend $500 + time and a few other parts to rig up a system to just keep the perfect balance. Its something I have been interested in for awhile but my initial idea of doing that wasn’t physically sound. I’m just needing a way to test for the specific quantities of the chemicals used, as well as other impurities.

  3. Hydroponics should be fine!! Mite need a dilution step first but that’s 1 extra pump
    Seawater is hard due to the crazy amnts of Na and Cl (amongst over things) that come out in huge bands and are basically over the top of the interesting ones :) It is possible to trap chlorine which means it may be possible to do anions in seawater but without preconc steps cations are difficult (so heavy metals in seawater) But ion selective electrodes suffer the same issues here really for both.
    And you can’t leave ISE’s in solution they degrade too rapidly so no online monitoring, leaving CE or Ion chromatography the 2 real options.

    Agilent just came out with this microwave atomic emission spectrometer; which can kinda online sample but it needs a big Nitrogen gas generator and it has a very heavy price tag
    Look at how pretty it is :)

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