On the heels of concerns about the nations food supply raised recently by Tommy Thompson, the outgoing secretary of health and human services, a new research deal has been announced that could make it easier to automatically detect biological agents in the water supply.
Sandia National Laboratories, a research unit operated by Lockheed Martin for the Department of Energy, announced Monday that it will work with two business partners to develop automated water safety sensor units that would be capable of detecting currently unmonitored biological agents such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa that could threaten water supplies.
"We applaud this first major agreement announced by Sandia to develop technology with such strong potential for homeland security applications," said Carol Linden, deputy director of the Science-based Threat Analysis and Countermeasures Program for the Department of Homeland Securitys Office of Research and Development.
Current real-time, remote water quality monitoring is limited to detecting more traditional water-quality parameters, such as turbidity or the presence of dissolved solids, pH, nitrates and ammonia.
The research work will be based on Sandias ChemLab technology, which was initially developed over the past decade through grants from the Department of Energy.
This multiyear, multimillion-dollar research partnership for Sandia is with Tenix, Australias largest defense and technology contractor, and CH2M Hill Inc., a company specializing in water safety analysis.
Tenix will work with CH2M Hill primarily as a systems integrator. The technology is expected to be provided by specialized U.S.-based technology firms producing Sandia-designed equipment for the system.
Initial commercial units and wider deployment are anticipated by late 2005 to mid-2007. Officials said the analyzer will respond rapidly to chemicals, biological agents and biotoxins; will provide a low level of false alarms; and may be deployed as part of an integrated water monitoring and management system.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on health care.