EUROPEAN COMMISSION FP7 POLLINS

Currently, the detection of soil pollution is done by manual surveys which are inefficient, unreliable, time consuming and very expensive.


The need of a better and low-cost technical approach, that would be able to assess contaminated areas before programing the required remediation actions, has become more intense due to public awareness for the environment. This project aims to develop a semi-autonomous, remotely controlled robotic system that will deploy three novel (and a modified existing) sensors for the assessment of soil quality and site characterization. The large contaminated sites will be covered by 100%, presented by fine scale 3D maps of contaminant levels and giving quality and quantity data for the pollutants (heavy metals, organic solvents, NAPLS) without the need of human intervention. Considering that the personnel is endangered by the toxic contaminants, this is very important.

Four different types of sensors (HPU, GPR, chemical sensors and SAW) will be integrated to detect efficiently the contaminants in the surface and underground. Data collected from the sensors will be fused, correlated and optimized to provide GPS linked ground 3D images of contaminant distribution. Thus ground property images from different sensors can be combined to produce composite images that can be used also later to during the treatment of soil contamination. Advanced signal processing techniques will be used to obtain the correct interpretation of the data acquired by the sensors and image processing will ameliorate the fused images. The automated inspection soil contamination system will benefit the SMEs involved in NDT, robotics and contamination detection.

Project's technical objectives

  • Development of a rolling High Power Ultrasound (HPU) sensor, able to identify discontinuities in soil homogeneity
  • Design of semi-autonomous remote controlled vehicle which will incorporate a DGPS system, accelerometer and absolute orientation sensors. The vehicle must have impact and weather resistant chassis and will be able to move on irregular soils.
  • Design of an array of SAW sensors that will be able to detect organic solvents and NAPLs pollution
  • Software to process and model the data obtained, through data cross correlation and fusion, offering as output a 3D mapping of soil pollution in the observed area.
  • Development of a signal processing toolbox incorporated in a man-machine interface, that will provide a comprehensive set of reference-standard algorithms and graphical tools for image processing, analysis, visualization, and algorithm development, such as image enhancement, image deblurring, noise reduction, spatial transformations and image registration.
  • Development of optical fibre chemical sensors which will be able to measure humidity, pH of the soil and the concentrations of heavy metal pollutants in real time.

Benefits

Europe will benefit from Pollins system in several aspects such as environmental, health and safety issues, financial, agricultural, habitat and ground water protection.

Environmental – health & safety benefits:  Cancer in European children younger than 15 years old is in general terms rare but remains one of the most common causes of death in children in industrialised countries.
Random exposure is the best documented environment-related cause of cancer but is localized in geographical areas where pollution occurs. As Pollins system will provide the capacity to detect soil contamination on the ground, the environmental exposure to this kind of diseases will be decreased.
Agricultural benefits: Pollins system aims in the protection of soil quality and consequently of plants and habitants. In particular, almost all vegetation including grassland, arable crops and trees, need soil for the supply of water and nutrients and to fix their roots. If the soil is contaminated, the nutrients will decrease and the health of crops and plants will be affected. Pollins will ensure the non contamination of the soil by providing effective detection of harmful polutants before they reach to crops and plants. Thus, the agricultural food products and forestry will not deteriorateby pollution Better soil quality means increased rooting depth and water holding capacity.
Ground water protection. Identification of contaminated sites will reduce the risk for human and animal health damage through drinking water extracted from below the contaminated sites.
Soil store and partly transforms minerals, organic matter, water and energy, and diverse chemical substances. It functions as a natural filter for groundwater, the main source for drinking water, and releases CO2, methane and other gases in the atmosphere. Accumulation of pollutants by elevated concentrations of fertilizers and pesticides in local deposition areas deplete the soil’s filter and buffer capacity.
Habitat protection. Soil is also the habitat for a huge amount and variety of organisms living in and on the soil, all with unique gene patterns. It performs essential ecological functions, which will be protected by the results of the project. Without the expected from the project benefits on protecting soil quality, there will be a decrease in soil biodiversity which plays an important role in the formation and stabilization of organo-mineral complexes. Decline in soil biodiversity affects soil turnover, decreases aggregation, increases crusting, reduces infiltration rates and exacerbates soil erosion. In other words, reduction in soil biodiversity enhances the impacts of soil erosion.

More info at http://pollins.eu/

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