April 2021 – Sensor Handover

A-WaMs releases first Sensor prototype

The A-WaMS project consortium is delighted to announce the completion of the first generation sensor. The sensor’s official handover took place on the 11th of March 2021, with DCUs Sean Power handing over the custom-designed sensor to Glenn Tarpey of TWM.

This sensor has been skillfully designed, engineered and built by the DCU Water Institute team over the past year and a half.

This dynamic sensor is capable of providing absorption, scatter, and fluorescence readings over a broad spectral range along with temperature readings in real-time.

The developed sensor units are built for a low cost. Lab testing has clearly demonstrated the sensor can generate detailed readings allowing for environmental events in the aquatic environment to be detected and quantified.

Difficult as it has been over the past year with Covid-19 restrictions, the teams have gone to extreme effort to set up labs, benchtop experimentation and 3D printers in their homes to ensure deliverables and milestones were met and this point could be reached on time.

The sensor is currently being integrated with TWM’s infrastructure for power and communication management and will be used in the first environmental testing trial over the coming weeks.

For more information follow this project on www.awams.eu and @AWaMS_2020

Sean Power of DCU showing Glenn Tarpey of TWM the sensor in the lab

Dec 2020 Update

A-WaMS 2020 Project Update


This has been a unique year with unexpected challenges for everyone. During this time TechWorks Marine and DCU Water Institute were working towards delivering the first phase of the A-WaMS project (Advanced Water Monitoring System). The past year has been a busy and productive time for A-WaMS. With the help of some innovative thinking the DCU development team were able to stride ahead by setting up a range of remote labs.  And thanks to strong communication skills across the consortium, the collaborative teamwork that the project envisaged at the beginning endured and fostered a productive phase one of A-WaMS.

DCU have been working tirelessly on optimising the optical sensor. Rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printing have been used to build the housing components for electronics and optics. Optical components selected cover a wide range of wavelengths from UV (Ultraviolet) to IR (Infrared). From here the team has been evaluating the sensor performance and capabilities and using standards and environmental samples to characterise sensor performance. The team also made use of opportunities to conduct field tests of potential materials to be used in the sensor design. In March, DCU deployed a range of materials to assess anti fouling potential. This was closely monitored to understand fouling progression and what type of species adhere to the surfaces. In parallel, typical marine fouling organisms are be used in the lab to evaluate optical UV LEDs antifouling performance against biofilm formation. At the end of the year, we have the first sensor unit assembled and it is now undergoing lab testing and evaluation.

The TechWorks Marine MiniBuoy has undergone significant development in line with project goals. Bespoke circuit boards have been manufactured with key upgrades to improve GPS features, power monitoring and temperature and humidity monitoring. Additional upgrades have resulted in faster processing times and improved, more reliable, data transfer and communications. By utilising the latest research in IoT sensor systems, the MiniBuoy will be capable of two-way communication with clients. This will allow for clients to implement a highly adaptable and responsive monitoring regime and easily output results through the CoastEye platform. In addition to these upgrades, TechWorks Marine also updated the CPU module on board to allow for faster processing of collected data and to enable the additional of any future features and sensors.

Looking forward, we have very high expectations for 2021. DCU and TechWorks Marine will work together to on the first environmental trial in coastal waters. During this time, we will be evaluating software and hardware performance and making any necessary adjustments and improvements to optimise the monitoring service.

We have all been challenged this year to adapt and re-invent the way we do research and development. We have had to learn how to work as a team remotely, how to communicate our research and ideas more concisely and how to plan ahead – way ahead. We look forward to continuing this growth and innovation well into the future.


Nov 2020 – Turbidity

Turbidity Monitoring

Continuous monitoring of turbidity fluctuations in

coastal and inland waters

Hurricane Zeta resulted in highly turbid coastal waters due to a massive increase in sediment transport. Data from Sentinel-2 01/11/2020


What is turbidity?

Turbidity is a measurement of the clarity (or murkiness) of water due to suspended particles. When suspended particles are present in the water column light is scattered, reflected and attenuated rather than transmitted in straight lines. Turbidity is an optical property which quantifies the degree to which light is scattered and absorbed by the particles. The higher the degree of scattered light, the higher the turbidity.

Suspended and dissolved matter that can cause water to be turbid include silt, fine inorganic and organic matter, algae, POM (Particulate Organic Matter), plankton and other microscopic organisms. Potential sources of such particles include natural sediment resuspension due to high rainfall, wind, waves and tidal runoff, shoreline erosion, wastewater outfalls and other human activities such as dredging.

A range of organic and inorganic particles contribute to the suspended solid concentrations in coastal & inland waters.


Why measure turbidity?

Turbidity is one of the most important indicators used to assess the environmental status of water bodies. Increases in turbidity levels from natural or anthropologic influences may have adverse effects on water quality. Through light limitation, sedimentation, and eutrophication high levels of turbidity can have a significant impact on coastal and inland water ecosystems. When sunlight penetration is significantly reduced, there is a reduction in the visual range which can greatly affect predator-prey interactions in the water. Photosynthesis is also reduced, which in turn can result in dissolved oxygen depletion which further reduces productivity. Additionally, tracking fluctuations in turbidity is key to monitoring sediment plumes from dredging and dumping activities. Conducting turbidity monitoring prior to, during, and after all dredging and coastal engineering activities provides us with a complete picture of possible adverse effects in the area.

Turbidity is a key monitoring parameter for natural and human activities. Flood events, wastewater outfall locations and dredging activities need to be closely monitored.


How we monitor turbidity

Turbidity is measured by specialised optical equipment in lab environments or deployed in the water column. Light is directed through a water sample and the amount of light scatter is measured. The unity of this measurement is a Nephelometric Turbidity Unit (NTU). One of the key prohibitive barriers for conducting turbidity monitoring is the high cost of turbidity sensors, deployment expertise and maintenance labour. A-WaMS aim to overcome this obstacle and provide a low-cost yet reliable sensor along with an easy to access information output delivery system.

The optical sensor (OCS 2) developed by DCU Water Institute, measures turbidity and a wide range of other environmental parameters. The sensor uses light scatter measurements at different angles and multiple wavelengths to provide information on total suspended particle concentrations. Coupled with measurements collected from other detectors present on the sensor (fluorescence or attenuation) and data analytics tools, the sensor aims to classify and identify pollution events in coastal areas in near-real-time. We have the infrastructure and expertise to deploy in a wide range of onshore and offshore environments.

The A-WaMS optical sensor may be deployed on a range of onshore and offshore platforms.


The design of our reliable and robust system not only allows for spot monitoring but due to its low-cost empowers organisations to purchase and deploy a network of sensors in their area of interest. A-WAMS will see the commercialisation of the DCU Water Institute’s optical sensor technology, and integration with the advanced data analytics capabilities of TechWorks Marine.


For more information, please see our project background page –



Aug 2020 – Oil/Hydrocarbon Detection & Monitoring

Oil/Hydrocarbon Detection & Monitoring

Detection & continuous monitoring of the evolution of oil spills in coastal areas

One of the focus areas of A-WAMS is improving oil and hydrocarbon detection in our coastal waters. Through conducting an online survey and extensive one-on-one interviews, we identified a key concern for coastal stakeholders – the presence of oil/hydrocarbons in the water column. Whether it be Mauritius’s pristine beaches or within your local bustling fishing harbour, the ability to detect and monitor oil spills on the water is becoming increasingly important. Both timely detection and continuous monitoring are critical for efficient response planning and reducing the impact on the ecosystem. A-WAMS aims to demonstrate the advantages of deploying a network of low-cost and robust sensors providing you with continuous locational intelligence.

Oil spills detection and monitoring is typically achieved remotely using satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data or Side-Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR). Unfortunately, these methods are often unhelpful in coastal zones and port vicinities as the oil spill must be sufficiently large for satellite or airborne detection.  In these cases, in-situ sensor deployment is the optimum means of continuous monitoring. Most in-situ oil detection methods utilised rely on optical sensors which are based on oil fluorescence detection. Fluorescence is an optical phenomenon in which a compound absorbs light at a shorter wavelengths and emits it at a longer wavelength.

The main advantages of fluorescence over other optical detection processes are high sensitivity, increased detection range and high specificity. Fluorophores (fluorescent molecules) have a very specific fluorescent signature based on the electronic structure, meaning every fluorescent molecule will have a unique fingerprint in the form of an emission/excitation matrix and intensity ratio (see Fig 1). These advantages, combined with simple requirements for instrumentation (i.e. light source and photodetectors) have driven the development of submersible fluorometers for in-situ detection and monitoring of oil.

Detecting and monitoring oil in the water will be conducted with a network of immersed low-cost optical sensors. Oil in sea water, essentially petroleum hydrocarbon compounds in the water column, can be dispersed (small droplets) or dissolved (soluble form). Components that are most soluble in sea water are the light aromatic hydrocarbons compounds. Aromatic hydrocarbons form the majority of dissolved oil and are characterised by a benzene ring structure which is a prerequisite for fluorescence. There are several aromatic hydrocarbons found in crude and refined oil products that can serve as a proxy for oil detection. Depending on the number of rings contained within an aromatic hydrocarbon molecule, they are divided further into monocyclic (single ring) or polycyclic (two or more rings). Monocyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MAHs) are collectively benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, while Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are mostly derivatives of naphthalene, anthracene and phenanthrene. Both groups are distinguishable based on fluorescence emission spectra. This is achieved by measuring the absorbed light in the ultraviolet (UV) range (240 – 360nm) and the emitted light in the visible range (280-480nm) (see Fig 2). For example, MAHs absorb light between 230-270nm, and emit between 260-320nm while PAHs absorb between 240-360nm and emit between 340-480nm. This phenomenon can be used to detect hydrocarbon products both in surface and subsurface waters.


A-WAMS will see the commercialisation of the DCU Water Institute’s optical sensor technology, and integration with the advanced data analytics capabilities of TechWorks Marine. The decision support system will be based on information transmitted from a network of remote sensors. The sensors are designed to be deployable via a range of different methods (see Fig 3) in coastal waters and are capable of providing real-time detection of hydrocarbons.



Rohde, P., Busch, J.A., Henkel, R.H., Voss, D. and Zielinski, O., 2009, May. Detection and identification of hydrocarbons in marine waters using time-resolved laser-fluorescence: Set-up and first results of a new submersible sensor. In OCEANS 2009-EUROPE (pp. 1-5).

April 2020 – 6 Month Update

The DCU Water Institute and TechWorks Marine are in the process of delivering the first phase of their project Advanced Water Monitoring System (A-WaMS). This project will result in a low-cost environmental monitoring and decision support system for coastal waters. 

Nov 2019 – Stakeholder Online Survey Launch

We greatly appreciate you taking the time to provide us with your water monitoring needs, insights and recommendations. TechWorks Marine and DCU are working together to develop low-cost optical sensors to monitor marine and coastal water quality and supply the results to you in an easy to access manner.

We aim to develop low-cost, easy to deploy water sensors for continuous measuring of chemical and physical parameters in coastal and marine waters. The sensor, and data delivery service, have the potential to greatly enhance your water monitoring needs and save you valuable time and money. The optical sensors will greatly improve our knowledge of water quality trends, ecosystem trends, allow large scale monitoring and contribute to the management and development of coastal resources.

Your expert opinion is vital for the development of an accessible monitoring system for coastal industries, local authorities, government agencies and the Irish coastal communities. This short survey will only take 7 minutes to complete.


A-WaMS Project Kick-off Meeting

TechWorks Marine and DCU Water Institute kick-off a Disruptive Technologies project Advanced Water Monitoring System (A-WaMS). TechWorks Marine and the DCU Water Institute announce their collaboration on a 3 year project following the joint award of €1.1M from Project 2040’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund. The A-WaMS project will see the commercialisation of the DCU Water Institute’s optical sensor technology, and integration with the advanced data analytics capabilities of TechWorks Marine.