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MoboSens is a mobile sensor platform for measuring pollutants (nitrates, heavy metals, pathogens) in water and sharing water pollution information on internet.
Logan Liu
Urbana, Illinois
United States
1 Team Member

Social Need

Water quality is a global concern. Almost 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2 million die every year from unsafe water. Even in the United States, it is estimated that as many as 2,000,000 households have drinking water with dangerously high levels of nitrate, a serious threat to infants (methemoglobinemia, more commonly known as "blue baby syndrome", inhibits oxygen transport by red blood cells).

Due to adverse environmental impacts from industry, inadequate and aging municipal infrastructure, and general shortcomings of regulatory systems, there is an express need for everyday citizen's to take more responsibility in the monitoring the environmental health of their world. Beyond our own health and safety, this need is especially vital if we want to ensure a sustainable future for our children. However, the scientific equipment and technical training required to accomplish this task is beyond the reach of most citizens, even in wealthy nations like the United States. In response to this great social need, we're developing a low-cost, high-accuracy, and extremely versatile sensor technology that makes use of nanotechnology and integrates with mobile devices: MoboSens.

MoboSens will give anyone with a smartphone the ability to measure the concentration of common pollutants - like nitrate, arsenic, chromium, lead - in water (municipal supply, private wells) and even soil (if properly prepared). The platform will enable them to share that information through the Internet. How that data improves human health and safety, as well as fosters more effective regulatory systems, could be revolutionary.
About the Project

Our innovative project is a mobile sensor platform that is both affordable and possesses the accuracy and precision of expensive bench-top laboratory equipment. Our platform, through integration with mobile communications, enables spatial reporting of quantitative environmental data through our public data repository. If funded, we will develop a field-ready handheld water quality sensor for heavy metal (initial focus on arsenic) and nitrate detection. We have already validated our sensing technique for nitrate, but the hardware and casing needs refinement before it will be ready for field use. Future sensing targets include phosphate and bacteria.

About Us

We're a team of engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We're applying nanotechnology in new and exciting ways, building better sensors that cost less and can be scaled for global use. We're focused on improving environmental monitoring and health & human safety. We're passionate about removing barriers to advanced scientific instruments and coupling these devices with other disruptive technologies, like social media and geospatial information systems. We're building MoboSens because we want our research to mean something more than journal publications - we want to improve the world we live in.

Project Lead

Dr. Logan Liu, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Sensor Development

Manas Gartia, Doctoral Candidate in Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering
Xinhao Wang, Doctoral Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Jing "Jimmy" Jiang, Doctoral Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Te-Wei Chang, Doctoral Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering

Software Development

Tristan Wietsma, Doctoral Candidate at the Illinois Informatics Institute
Caleb Qian, Graduate Student in Electrical and Computer Engineering
Will Wang, Senior Undergraduate in Computer Engineering

Stage of the Project and What Your Contribution Means

This project builds on technologies developed through research that we have dedicated our professional and personal lives towards. We have already developed a prototype version of our low-cost handheld sensor for nitrate measurement. The performance of this proof-of-concept device is impressive; we're detecting nitrate down to 25 parts-per-billion at a fraction of the cost of typical methods. We have field validated data sharing using Twitter. While we're very happy with our proof-of-concept, but we're nowhere near full potential.

We anticipate the project will take up to two years to reach full scale for all planned sensing targets. We plan to start deploying our sensor for nitrate measurement within the next 6 months, working with citizen scientist groups (research institutes, NGOs) in Illinois. If this early testing proves successful, we'll scale up as needed. Given our sensor's construction process, we are confident that contract manufacturing will be able to easily produce our hardware at low cost and high quality. We're also developing partnerships with individuals, non-profits, and for-profit companies that share our vision.

Currently, using on-campus rapid prototyping facilities, we can make our sensor hardware for under $200 per unit. Once scaled beyond 500 units, we estimate that price will drop substantially under $100. In addition to expanding sensing capabilities (our next focus is on heavy metals), money raised will go towards improving the device for mass manufacture and producing an initial batch to be validated by citizen scientists affiliated the University of Illinois.

Find This Campaign On
raised in 29 days
102% funded
No time left
Verified Nonprofit
$5,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on May 14, 2013
In partnership with
Matched Funds By
Matched: $1,000USD
Funds Have Been Matched!

Vodafone matched $1,000 USD of contributions made to this campaign. Matched funds are reflected in the total amount raised.

Select a Perk
  • $5USD
    Thank you for contributing!

    For your donation, your name will appear on a special dedication page on our website.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $25USD
    Sensor R&D

    Vote on the next sensing target for us to research after arsenic. Suggestions include lead, copper, chromium...

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: June 2013
  • $50USD

    Our objective sensor cost. With this amount, you'll help us get sensor hardware to our citizen scientist collaborators (institutional researchers, private citizens, students) for field testing.

    1 out of 1000 claimed
  • $100USD
    iPhone Sensor App

    With this amount, you'll help us get sensor hardware to our citizen scientist collaborators (institutional researchers, private citizens, students) for field testing. In return, we will send our iPhone sensor app link to you for free long before it is released on iOS app store.

    1 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $500USD
    Science Webinar

    If we can have more than 20 donations in this category, we'll invite you to a private webinar to present the technology and science behind MoboSens. For less than 20 donations in this category, the inventors will make phone calls to donors explaining the MoboSens technology and science. You will also receive all the perks in the above categories.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: August 2013
  • $1,000USD
    Your Name in Phone App

    You will receive all the perks in the above categories. We'll also acknowledge your name in the next version of our Android and iPhone sensor apps. When people uses MoboSens in the future, they will know you made unique contributions to enable this new technology for social good.

    1 out of 20 claimed
    Estimated delivery: August 2013
  • $5,000USD
    First tester of new sensor

    Besides all benefits in all the above categories, you will become the first tester of our new sensor prototype once it is built in lab. We will ship the new sensor to your address. If needed, we will then improve our sensor based on your testing feedback. Essentially you become a part of our inventor team.

    0 out of 20 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
  • $10,000USD
    Meet the inventor team

    Making this contribution means you are both generous philanthropists and curious technology fans. You will get all the perks in other categories. We will invite you to Univ. of Illinois, a unique place and home for the inventors of transistor, integrated circuit, LED, MRI and first internet browser. You will be touring our innovative research laboratory and advanced manufacturing facility. You will be meeting with the inventor team and brainstorming together for the next big invention.

    0 out of 10 claimed
    Estimated delivery: September 2013
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