Member Profile: AquaSensing
Harnessing nanotechnology for environmentally friendly battery-free water leak detection unit
“We want to build a greener and safer world. The increased use of batteries is worrisome, as they can be harmful to the environment. With the rise of IoT, we want to create a world with fewer batteries and less harmful waste,” stated Connor Al-Joundi, AquaSensing business lead and co-founder. “And we want to mitigate the accelerating problems of water scarcity.”
AquaSensing has created a leak-sensing device that is environmentally friendly. The battery-free device uses nanotechnology to power itself, and a wireless radio for data relay to the cloud. Its purpose is to detect water leaks in buildings and automatically relay that information through text, emails, and mobile devices anywhere. The existing devices on the market often have short lifespans and use disposable batteries and electronics that end up in landfills. AquaSensing’s device is meant to reduce the environmental footprint, upfront costs, and recurring maintenance requirements.
“Our research indicates that, conservatively, leaks cost the global economy over $100 billion annually,” explained Al-Joundi. “Five billion people will experience water shortages by 2050, and we want to help mitigate the impact of increasing water scarcity.”
As the sensors are cubes only five millimeters across, they can be installed in inaccessible places that other devices have not been able to reach. Typically, after a building is erected, the only way to install leak-detection systems and place them in a structure is to drill holes or employ other destructive measures.
AquaSensing’s devices are comprised of stacked nanoparticles to create a chemical reaction that generates electricity when exposed to humidity, water, or any other liquid. This allows the cube to be battery free. The electricity produced by the nanoparticles feeds into an energy harvesting board that activates the device and powers an onboard wireless radio.
Founded in 2019 out of research conducted at the University of Waterloo, AquaSensing emerged from the joint efforts of Al-Joundi, professors Norman Zhou and George Shaker, and a team of students including Nathan Johnson, Kushant Patel, and Jarren Teo, all graduates of UWaterloo with degrees in mechanical and mechatronics engineering.
Together they were granted close to $1 million in research and development funding, which includes winning Concept’s $5K Finals. Connor credits the motivated and highly skilled students that really made the vision a reality. “The availability of state-of-the-art labs and collaborative mentality helped,” said Al-Joundi. “The support from many organizational teams up to the presidential level, helped spread the word about our unique solution and encouraged us to found the company.”
With a team consisting of over a dozen technical developers, and engineers with experience in Canada, the U.S., and China, AquaSensing is focused on decreasing global water scarcity and pushing green initiatives, among other opportunities. By helping companies and communities save water, AquaSensing has developed their product for commercial and home use, with applications in hotels, condo complexes, and water utilities. They are also exploring other applications for use of their water leak detection unit.
Now a member of the GEDI Exchange, AquaSensing believes the Exchange has the capability to greatly assist with networking, business feedback, and marketing. One of the company’s top goals for 2021 is to increase these activities. “We want to meet new customers, partners, and investors. Engage with the Waterloo Region business community. We also want to give back to UWaterloo by supporting the startup ecosystem,” said Al-Joundi.