Project Acronym: SAFE WATER

Full title: On chip whispering gallery mode optical microcavities for emerging microcontaminant determination in waters

Project duration: 42 months (from 30th March 2018 to 3rd October 2021)
Coordinator: Institute of Applied Physics “Nello Carrara” – National Research Council (IFAC-CNR)

Contact: Simone Berneschi ( or

Project website address: 

(temporary website link)

Executive summary

In the last decades, the rapid growth of the world population and the increase in industrial and agricultural activities have contributed to a continuous depletion of the water resources quality, endangering the health of individual citizens especially when water is destined for human consumption. As highlighted in recent European directives on the quality and monitoring of the water environments (EU 2013/39 and EU 2015/495), particular attention is paid to emerging microcontaminants (EMCs such as drugs, hormones, personal care and life-style products) which, present in traces in the aqueous matrices, are poorly biodegradable and difficult to remove through conventional treatment processes. It becomes essential to have an analytical method that can detect the presence of these pollutants at low concentrations. Based on the synergy among different competences of the consortium partners in the field of chemistry, electronics, photonics, microfluidics, the aim of the project is the realization of a new portable optical instrument for in situ and multiplexing detection of different EMCs. The absolute novelty of the prototype consists in the use of hollow-core whispering gallery mode microcavities which, with their high Q factor values, ensure extremely low limit of detections. The selected recognition strategies will be based on the chemical modification of inner surface of the microresonators or by molecular imprinting polymers (MIPs) or by functionalization process with specific antibodies. Finally, the various microfluidic and optoelectronic modules will be integrated into a single chip, controlled by an external PC for data acquisition and processing, establishing an innovative pollution monitoring system.