Petronet: A New Wireless Sensor Safety Net for Large Scale Hydrocarbon Leak Detection and Monitoring

Student: Kevin O'Keeffe, 2014-2015

Sponsor: Petronet, Notre Dame, IN

The goal of this project was to investigate the feasibility of integrating a sensor probe that employs a novel chemiresistor developed by Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) that utilizes anisotropic ferromagnetic nanoparticles and an existing wireless embedded network system developed by EmNet to remotely detect changes in the concentration of BTEX (Benzene-Toluene-Ethylene-Xylene) in groundwater. The system will employ EmNet’s current technology and a polymer developed at SNL that selectively absorbs and swells in the presence of BTEX. The swelling alters the precise location of numerous electrically conductive nanoparticles embedded in the polymer and produces a changes its conductivity and capacitance. Changes in conductivity and capacitance can be measured by the wireless detector and a signal can be sent utilizing existing cell phone towers to provide automated e-mail alarms that enable responsible parties to reduce the national costs associated with underground storage tank monitoring while enhancing the timeliness, quantity and quality of the data used to track the movement of contamination plumes containing the aromatic constituents of gasoline. The findings of this research support the conclusion that there is a lucrative market for the technology that EmNet can offer. Combining EmNet’s expertise in the wireless data gathering space with this new technology could lead to industry changing results and a re-definition of how we sample and remediate soil and groundwater after anthropological pollution events.