Research project AQUARIUS: Testing water quality in real-time

OMV Water Treatment Plant in Schönkirchen, Austria.
OMV Water Treatment Plant in Schönkirchen, Austria.
Group photo of the kick-off meeting at the OMV in Vienna.
Group photo of the kick-off meeting at the OMV in Vienna.

Using sensors based on tunable quantum cascade lasers to continuously monitor water quality: this is the aim of the EU research project AQUARIUS undertaken by the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF and other research institutes and industrial partners, which got underway at the start of 2017. Over the course of the next three years, the project team, led by the Austrian research and planning company Technikon, is set to achieve this objective by developing an innovative analysis system for testing contamination in water in real-time.

Water is an essential resource for all forms of life, the environment and the economy on this blue planet. Industrial production processes, the global population boom and increasing urbanization are only some of the factors contributing to water contamination. When it comes to the quality control and purification of different water systems, such pollution poses a significant challenge. A sustainable water supply requires innovative monitoring technologies for the various types of water, such as process water and waste water. These technologies ought to enable continuous monitoring in an ongoing process (online and inline analyses), making time-consuming, manual sample-taking for laboratory-based offline water analyses a thing of the past.

The AQUARIUS project partners are aiming to develop a new generation of photonic sensing solutions for the continuous monitoring of water flows. Specifically, this will create a high-performance online system in which samples are taken automatically and analyzed, as well as a compact and cost-effective inline system which performs analyses directly in the water. The AQUARIUS research project should thus lead to an innovative, competitive and ecologically sound solution – in accordance with the legal regulations for the industrial waste water controls.

The AQUARIUS consortium consists of partners from industry, research institutes, research-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises, and a university. Altogether, eight partners from five different European countries are involved in the project: Technikon Forschungs- und Planungsgesellschaft mbH, QuantaRed Technologies GmbH, Fraunhofer IAF, Fraunhofer IPMS, OMV Exploration & Production GmbH, VIGO System S.A., the Interuniversitair Micro-Electronicacentrum IMEC VZW, the Technische Universität TU Vienna and KWR Water B.V.

The main objectives of the AQUARIUS project:

  • Improving quantum cascade lasers in terms of spectral coverage and noise behavior
  • Realizing a fully functional spectrometer consisting of a tunable laser module and a fast detector for data acquisition
  • Advancing the development of oil-in-water monitoring from offline to online systems
  • Testing the online oil-in-water system with industrial end users
  • Realizing integrated optical circuits (IOCs) for waveguide-based sensor technology capable of inline testin
  • Building and testing the inline oil-in-water system in a laboratory environment


For more information, please visit:

The project leading to this application has received funding from the European Union under grant agreement No 731465. This project is an initiative of the Photonics Public Private Partnership.