s::can – Clean drinking water from an innovative light measurement technique
Andreas Weingartner, managing director of s::can Messtechnik GmbH, specialises in measuring water quality using light. s::can sells spectrometer probes and software solutions for keeping drinking water clean worldwide.
Water is our most important basic resource, which is why water safety and quality is such a big issue worldwide. In many countries, the water is not safe to drink, and can even be harmful to health. Thanks to a visual technique in which the absorption of a ray of light in water is measured, the various systems offered by s::can Messtechnik GmbH, from small clarification plants through to networks for entire cities, the water quality can be monitored on a continuous basis. The purpose of monitoring the water is to check whether certain threshold values have been exceeded. If this occurs, the software triggers an alarm in good time, and countermeasures can be introduced without a time delay. According to Andreas Weingartner, the founder of Austrian company s::can, the drinking water network is like a factory that is operated blind. The UV/VIS spectrometer probes from s::can act as eyes in the water network, which trigger an alarm in real time when threshold values are exceeded.
Water quality measurement in real time
Andreas Weingartner set up the company in 1999. Before that, he worked as a scientific assistant at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna. The test facilities that he worked on there gave him the idea to develop probes himself which would include the technology already developed for measuring water using light on a small scale. Weingartner succeeded in providing a lower-cost, and above all, non-chemical solution for monitoring the quality of drinking water, wastewater and water bodies. As a result water checks are no longer conducted in the laboratory, but in real time using technical devices such as mobile phones or PCs. The advantage of this measuring method is also that sampling errors can be avoided. Globally, 7,000 s::can systems are already in use in 35 countries, providing information about the quality of water or water bodies. Developing countries such as India are also convinced of the benefits of this light measurement method. As part of a World Bank project, started in 2012, s::can systems were installed along all major Indian river drainage basins in order to identify the largest industrial polluters and monitor the impact of measures already introduced. Rivers in India are terribly polluted from unfiltered wastewater, as a result of ongoing industrialisation and urbanisation. The installed measuring stations can be used to continuously monitor the water quality. As part of these measures, ten water quality parameters such as clouding, organic carbon and biological oxygen requirements are measured. The s::can method helps to detect pollutants in the water immediately and to react quickly to potential impurities.
s::can provides clean drinking water worldwide
The Indian government aims to improve the water quality of all seven holy rivers in the country. In order to be able to effectively tackle the problem with wastewater, India is therefore currently planning to use the s::can measuring technology in 3,000 major industrial operations. The first one hundred companies have already been equipped with s::can devices.
Meanwhile, in America, Weingartner’s company is already the market leader when it comes to water safety. The main purpose here is to quickly detect potential impurities in the drinking water. The fear of terrorist attacks is further increasing the demand for comprehensive water quality measurement – not just in America, but also in Europe. In general, it should be noted that food monitoring functions better than monitoring water quality. Our drinking water is only checked when it first enters the network; the quality of the water by the time it reaches the end user is usually unknown. Weingartner promotes a completely new approach, with projects such as “Building Protection” in America targeting specifically the quality of the water consumed by the end users. To this aim, public buildings are fitted with a kind of water alarm system, so that problems such as broken pipes, through which water can penetrate the water network from outside, are immediately evident. However, for s::can, the future lies above all in software development. Another important goal is to reduce the cost of their probes. Weingartner hopes that as a result, his measuring instruments will not just be affordable to large waterworks companies. With the i::scan, a miniature spectrometer probe is already available which uses a module made up of several LEDs as a light source, and which is considerably cheaper than its big sister, the spektro::lyser. Even so, the research department is working to create even cheaper solutions, so that water monitoring can continue to be improved, and particularly to make it available for use over larger areas.
general manager & founder
s::can Messtechnik GmbH