Capturing ultratraces of micropollutants in water resources

Award winner
Challenge: 3rd edition of the Action for Water Resources call for projects
Awardee(s): The Toulouse Environmental Geosciences Laboratory
Water lake

© Gabriel De Siam

The goal of the project is to develop a mobile application to automatically manage a network of dynamic sensors, called Tracesense.

A dynamic trace element sensor

Ultratrace micropollutants (metallic and organometallic elements and traces, or emerging toxic organic molecules, such as endocrine disruptors, residues of medicines or pesticides) are difficult to quantify in the natural environment.

Tracesense technology, developed by the Toulouse Environmental Geosciences Laboratory (GET) is rising to this challenge with an in situ preconcentration system that uses vibrations. This so-called “dynamic” sensor is based on a disposable nanostructured adsorbent support that is specific to a molecule of interest.

The sampling takes just a few minutes, which is much shorter than with traditional so-called “passive” sensors.

From sensors to “smart sensors”

The GET's project consists of creating a computerised infrastructure and ecosystem around the Tracesense technology by developing a mobile application capable of geolocating, programming and retrieving the data from each sensor.

This user-friendly application is intended for use by non-experts and aims at automatically managing a network of observations from several sensors.

A participative approach

Looking beyond its technological dimension, the educational aspect of the project also appealed to the jury. A pilot educational programme to observe mercury is underway in three secondary schools in the Garonne basin.

As well as training both pupils and teachers and raising their awareness of mercury-related pollution, the programme is also producing scientific data on the levels of concentration of mercury in the nationwide catchment basin.

Discover the interview with David Point, research fellow at the IRD (Development Research Institute) at the Toulouse Environmental Geosciences Laboratory (in French only):

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The winning team

The Toulouse Environmental Geosciences Laboratory (GET) covers several disciplines of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Its research activities include studying the history and the evolution of the Earth, the workings of hydro-systems, resources, natural risks and impacts on the environment and societies.

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