Contact Information: J Jack Driscoll ( (p g y ) Walter Johnson (wjohnson@suffolk.


Our goal was to develop and test a wireless methane l d l d l h detection system for monitoring of methane production in landfills and septic systems. Nitrogen systems in septic systems is a problem on Cape Cod because the majority of sewage is handled by septic systems. We were interested in measuring methane levels produced by septic systems to determine if sufficient quantities were available for capture and reuse in the system to remove nitrogen.

Kim, Han, Little, Johnson and Perov with Septic Test Facility in background

Types of S T f Sensors-CG CG
 Two heated catalytic

elements are set in a block; l bl k one is sealed; the other is in contact with the sample. Each is in a leg of a Wheatstone Bridge circuit. If the sample contains hydrocarbons o yd oca bo s or combustible inorganic compounds, they will burn increasing the temperature of the sensors and changing the h d h h resistance. The change in resistance is proportional to the concentration concentration.
PID Analyzers, LLC copyright 2003-2006


Battery and  Solar panel Sensor placed above the level of sewage in the septic tank

Electrical Schematic for System  

Methane Data Monitoring System
The CH4 sensor is connected to an amplifier board which then transfers the signal to a radio frequency “mote” for mote transmission to the base computer in a nearby building. There is a solar powered battery box that supplies poser to the sensor and amplifier circuit. The layout is shown in the diagram. di

Sensor and Amplifier
The sensor head has a range of 0 to 5% methane and h h dh h d constitutes half of a Wheatstone bridge circuit. The output voltage is about 10mV per % methane methane. The second part of the bridge is part of the amplifier board which amplifies the differential signal by 10 or 100 times (gain controlled by a switch). The output goes to an input of the analog to digital converter board MDA300 which is attached to the Crossbow mote MICA2 MICA2.

RF Crossbow Mote
The microcomputer /RF transmitter (mote) sends data at 433 MHz to a base computer located in an office about 50m away. The mote is programmed to operate in a low-power mode in hi h i l i which it sleeps most of the time (low power) and awakes f h i (l ) d k every 5 minutes for 30 seconds to take measurements and send data. It can run several months on two 1 5 V AA data 1.5 batteries. The data packet from the mote contains the mote battery voltage, humidity, and temperature inside the mote box.

Mote Box and Power
The mote and amplifier board are enclosed in a weather-proof box (see yellow box in figure) sitting outside the septic tank. The sensor head (inside the tank) is at the end of a 1 to 2 m 3 wire cable. The Th amplifier together with the sensor head, when lifi h ih h h d h activated, draw 110 mA from a +6 volt battery source but only 7mA from a -6 volt source. This power is source provided by a solar powered battery box connected to the mote box by a cable (see diagram) y g

R l C l Relay Control
The MDA300 board attached to the mote has several analog inputs and a relay that can be used to control the sensor circuit. When the mote wakes up to take data it closes this relay and supplies 6 volts to other relays. These relays connect the +6 v relays and -6V to the amplifier and the sensor for 30 seconds. (Response time of the sensor is 10 sec) At the end of this time, the mote measures the output voltage of the amplifier, h h l f h lf broadcasts the data , opens the relays to disconnect the g p batteries, and goes back to sleep. This mode of operation decreases the power consumption of the board by about a factor of ten compared to continuous supply of power.

Solar Panel Arrangement

Four solar panels, 3 x 5 , were fixed to the top of 3” 5” the battery box to maintain the +6V and the -6V needed by the electronics. In full sun, each panel can supply up to 70mA at 7V. The largest consumer was the +6V battery source so this was monitored by using on e of the analog inputs to the MDA300 board f h l i h b d attached to the mote. The graphs show that the solar panels are sufficient to keep the batteries charged even in harsh winter p g conditions.

6V battery and mote battery voltages y y g
7 6 5 Voltage 4 3 2 1 0 6-Feb 11-Feb 16-Feb Time 21-Feb 26-Feb

Sewage  Input vs Time (per day)



Sewage e (gal)






S  V l   Time Sensor Voltage vs Ti
1.3 1.2 1.1 1 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 05 0.4 0.3 0.2 adc0 (v)

adc0 (v) vs whole period
1.3 1.2 1.1 1 0.9 ad dc0 (v) 0.8 0.7 0.6 0.5 0.4 0.3 0.2


Future plans
We will use a temperature controlled box with air (no methane) to study changes in output voltage as a function of temperature and time over a period of months. This will allow us to check the drift of the sensor and determine the time intervals needed for recalibration. We will also place a thermocouple at the location of the ll l l h l h l f h methane sensor as an additional input to the mote to monitor ambient temperatures inside the septic tank. This tank will help in understanding methane production inside the septic system in different environmental conditions. p y

C l i Conclusion
We have developed and demonstrated a solar powered solar-powered wireless methane data collection system. The data are consistent with sewage flow conditions as stated by the septic test facility. This device will allow the facility to determine detailed behavior of different types of septic systems and test the viability of collection and reuse of d h i bili f ll i d f methane to eliminate nitrogen from septic systems. Acknowledgements: We are very appreciative of the assistance of personnel at the Barnstable p County Alternative Septic System Test Center

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