Wireless device detects pharmaceuticals in water, protects against oil spills
ST. PETERSBURG, FL--Marking an advance for detailed environmental protection, Voda LLC has produced and sold a small, submersible mass spectrometer, bringing the gold standard of laboratory analysis to bear on preventing water pollution from pharmaceuticals in the water supply and from offshore drilling.
There are other portable mass spectrometers but none with the sensitivity of Voda's Manta underwater ion-trap mass spectrometer, developed at the University of South Florida with federal funding arranged by U.S. Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young. Self-contained and autonomous, this tool can sit in open water, be deployed in open air or be transported through a site to continuously sniff for whatever set of chemicals or compounds are of interest. The Manta sends real-time results wirelessly to investigators' computers.
With revelations recently of pharmaceuticals in water supplies, some venture capitalists have contacted Voda about placing the Manta in reservoirs or even lakes and rivers to detect pharmaceutical residue flowing into municipal supplies. Likewise, the Manta could be downstream of a wastewater treatment plant to detect chemicals in the effluent. Typically, substances like pharmaceuticals in the water are in such low concentrations as to be difficult to detect, but the Manta has a proprietary system that can amplify faint signals and detect trace amounts.
"We're really excited to have a working product, not a model or mere design," said David Fries, CEO of VodaLLC.com and patent holder for the Manta. "And we're delivering the product for testing in the offshore oil-drilling environment to help those facilities process water cleanly."
Fries said Voda has sold two of the units to the St. Petersburg Environmental Research Center, a for-profit technology company in Florida. Fries will soon demonstrate the Manta for Canadian environmental officials and later for the offshore oil industry in Canada.
The 4-foot, 150-pound Manta could also be used to sniff out explosives or to detect chemicals used in the production of illegal drugs, Fries said. And other devices Voda is working on could make the Manta able to detect biological elements, like viruses or organisms. Moving the Manta through an area can also help trace a path of contamination to its original source.
Voda also produces other environmental sensors, from a conductivity-temperature-depth device that can measure salinity, to a sophisticated underwater video camera. The company has devised breakthroughs in power management and long-distance WiFi to allow wireless networks of such sensors to communicate over miles and generate meaningful real-time data about a site.
Voda was founded in late 2006 by Fries and several partners with whom he worked at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science. The company has other projects in the works and a series of alliances that will help it launch into underwater renewable energy, communications and other business sectors.
Paul Swider, Voda LLC