Inexpensive technology for conducting measurements in water

It was a project for a PhD student at DTU that prompted the development of a low-cost measuring device for use in the wave-breaking zone, i.e. the area near the coast, where the waves break.

“The instruments currently available for measuring currents in the sea cost at least EUR 10,000-13,500 (DKK 75-100,000), which significantly restricts their availability. My aim therefore was to look at whether a cheaper solution could be developed, which in the long term could provide far more measurement data and thus knowledge about conditions in the sea,” explains Asger Hansen, one of the three founders of the company Havsans I/S.

During his PhD project, Asger Hansen managed to develop a new low-cost device for measuring the velocity of flowing water in the sea, and this marked the start of a cooperation with the other two co-owners of Havsans, Andreas Nørregård Hansen, who is an electrical engineer from DTU, as well as Kasper Markus, a computer scientist.

Together, they have developed an instrument which comprises a data logger, which is housed in a plexiglass tube that is immersed in the sea. The data logger is connected to one or more sensors, which are attached to the plexiglass tube. In this way, it is possible to measure, for example, water temperature and pressure and the currents in the water. The data is then transmitted ashore, so it can be followed on a computer monitor.

Developed in close collaboration with DTU

“We expect our measuring instrument to be interesting for the marine aquaculture industry or small harbours which are unable to afford the very expensive systems currently available, but which need to measure currents or other conditions,” explains Asger Hansen.

It might, for example, be a small harbour with limited financial resources which wants to inform sailors when the waves outside the harbour entrance are several metres high or when there are strong currents.

Developing the new measuring instrument took place in close cooperation with researchers at DTU and with support from the ‘VIS’ project, which aims to promote the development of small businesses within water innovation. VIS is financed by the EU and regional development funds from the Growth Forum of the Capital Region.

“If we hadn’t established contact with VIS and the researchers at DTU, I think that our idea might well have ended up at the bottom of a drawer. However, our development work received a huge boost with the cooperation, so that we’re nearly ready with an almost finished product,” says Asger Hansen.

Strong focus on maritime data

One of the researchers helping the young company is senior researcher Patrizio Mariani, who sees huge potential for the inexpensive measuring instrument.

“In recent years, there has been growing focus globally on learning more about the seas and oceans and their influence on climate change, among other things. This has happened in connection with the UN Sustainability Goals and in major European research projects. An inexpensive measuring instrument will mean that we can collect data from many more points in the sea than has previously been possible,” he says.

Havsans expects to sell its first instrument in January at a price that is at least ten times less than the current market price of measuring instruments for the sea.

“This is possible because we’re buying mass-produced components, for example the sensors and the plexiglass tube, which we then assemble ourselves to produce the finished instrument. We’re starting out with a very simple solution that only contains a data logger and two sensors. Later, the idea is that we will expand with more features and a subscription service, so we handle all the practical aspects and customers simply buy the data from us,” says Asger Hansen.

Initially, however, the young company is dreaming about finding a mentor, and perhaps participating in a development programme for start-ups along the lines of the Danish Tech Challenge, so that they lay the best possible foundations for further business development.

(Anne Kirsten Frederiksen)