From landmines to Lightwater

Jessica Wiseman
Friday 20 January 2023

Water quality problems currently affect nearly a billion people, and by 2050, water shortages are expected to affect more than 50% of the global population. The integrity of both water quality and delivery networks are crucial in addressing these issues. 

The Lightwater Sensors detector, created by Dr Ross Gillanders in the School of Physics and Astronomy, is a low-cost real-time diagnostic system for water samples. 

Dr Gillanders’  research began with the development of an optical sensor platform for detecting landmines and other explosive remnants of war. While developing his work on Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection, Dr Gillanders exploited the wide-ranging uses of the underpinning technology to address water quality, increasingly one of the world’s most pressing issues. 

Lightwater Sensor’s photonic-based technology uses optical chemical sensor materials, developed in St Andrews, that are designed to integrate with low-cost portable instrumentation platforms. These selective materials can detect target molecules by exhibiting a loss of light emission when in contact with the analyte. Specifically, the technology employs light-emitting polymers that are highly effective in a variety of applications. 

Cleaner water and improved pollution detection both influence food production quality control, giving Dr Gillanders’ technology an indirect positive impact on the UN’s Goals for zero hunger and the promotion of well-being across all ages.

The company established to provide Lightwater Sensors will provide national opportunities in green tech, health and wellbeing, and data-driven business.  

The intention is for Lightwater Sensors to scale internationally and become a household name for water quality instrumentation. Lightwater could profoundly and positively impact on various parts of the water quality market, including groundwater, drinking water, wastewater, aquaculture, coastal, and environmental laboratories for regulatory bodies and academia.  

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