Measuring groundwater movements contributes to predicting pollution and provides valuable insights into the water balance, the anticipated climate impact and the practical need to make areas wetter.
Since it was founded in 2017, iFLUX has been offering solutions for determining the dynamics of groundwater flow and pollution in the soil. The company is doing this based on innovative measurement technology, combined with targeted data analysis.
Alongside analogue measurement systems, iFLUX has developed unique real-time, on-site digital technology for groundwater and pollution monitoring. This goes one step further and helps to predict the risks of groundwater pollution, and even prevent them. Moreover, this technology could also contribute to better management of nature and the production and monitoring of droughts...
Real-time, on-site groundwater monitoring
Flux measurements are used to identify the speed and direction of groundwater and the pollution it contains. iFLUX's real-time, on-site groundwater and pollution monitoring accelerates the response time, predicts and may even prevent risks. “Monitoring is often based on water levels and snapshots of concentration; movements are not measured then, but calculated based on models.
Precisely by measuring the movements of groundwater and pollution themselves, which we call fluxes, you get a more complete and accurate picture of what is going on underground. Groundwater fluxes and mass fluxes are the missing link and cause the greatest uncertainties in these model predictions and future scenarios," says Goedele Verreydt, inventor and proponent of the iFLUX technology. Verreydt runs iFLUX along with Tim Op ’t Eyndt, who is responsible for the day-to-day management as Commercial Manager.
The next generation of solutions for groundwater monitoring
Today, groundwater monitoring is mainly analogue (the pollutant fluxes are determined in monitoring tubes through adsorption and recovery processes, from which the effective fluxes in the soil are then extrapolated), but since recently, it has been possible to do this digitally too. "IFLUX is currently going through a major transition. This will shift its activities from more reactive monitoring based on analogue sampling technology for groundwater to a digital system that allows for real-time remote monitoring. It should enable customers to work preventatively on soil pollution, as well as on water issues more broadly," Verreydt explains.
Tracking down pollution preventatively
With analogue monitoring, action can only be taken once the soil pollution has been identified. The new digital technology, on the other hand, also allows for preventative solutions, for which there is great need.
Op 't Eyndt: 'With the new system, we want to target other customers too, so not just companies working in the soil remediation sector anymore, but drinking water companies, project developers and agricultural firms too, for example. By combining various kinds of measurement data, we can provide some interesting insights for them that weren't possible before. This will enable them to respond more quickly and even preventatively to undesirable situations and prevent problems, thereby saving costs."
Based on measurements of the flow rate of the groundwater, for example, iFLUX's digital monitoring system also provides valuable insights into the water balance, the anticipated climate impact and the practical need to make areas wetter.
Verreydt: "Authorities stand to benefit from our measurements too, for example. Not only the ones focusing on soil pollution, but also the bodies working on structural water issues. Especially in Flanders, where far too little water still penetrates the soil, this issue is structural and urgent. This means we're also doing our bit for the Blue Deal, through which the Flemish government is aiming to restore the water system in our region."
“As it happens, we're also seeing other climate-related market segments coming about," Op 't Eyndt adds. "These include agricultural firms aiming to arm themselves against drought, or construction firms that don't want to have the groundwater they pump up during the works carried off via the sewers anymore. Thanks to our solutions based on high-quality data, they can improve their processes, monitor them properly and adjust them at the right time.”
IFLUX is aiming to develop a scalable solution for the digital sensor system in the short term by first refining the prototypes further in the lab and then moving towards a successful demonstration and validation.
IFLUX is a spin-off from VITO and the University of Antwerp and will have existed for five years in late 2022. The start-up, which identifies soil pollution by monitoring groundwater, has seen strong growth in the past few years. The coronavirus pandemic did temporarily curb its activities, however, particularly as regards opening up foreign markets.
40% of the projects iFLUX was helping to work on were projects abroad. IFLUX mainly targets the European market, but also has several projects outside Europe, for example in the Gulf Region and in the United States.
IFLUX, which is headquartered at the University of Antwerp's Science Park in Niel, is continuing to grow and doubled its number of employees from 8 to 16 past months.
More information: https://ifluxsampling.com/