Researchers from Bath’s Dept of Chemical Engineering and Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of West England are working with live bacteria, electronics, and 3D printing to produce a biosensor that may reliably provide around-the-clock water quality assessment for drinking water safety all over the world. They published findings from their research in the Biosensors and Bioelectric Journal and here’s a summary from 3Dprint.com:
…The device, which was designed and printed using 3D printing technology, is essentially a fuel cell filled with bacteria. The bacteria live, feed and reproduce inside the fuel cell. When they eat and grow, they produce a small, measurable electrical charge. When bacteria in the sensor come into contact with contaminated water, the electrical current decreases a noticeable amount. This change is enough to alert someone that his water is not safe for drinking.
In their laboratory trials, the research team was able to use the sensor to detect pollutants such as cadmium. Cadmium is a toxic by-product of the electronics industry. It produces a number of health problems in those exposed to it and is a known carcinogen. Dr. Mirella Di Lorenzo, Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at Bath, said the biosensor is a simple, but useful warning system. “Because this system uses live bacteria, it acts a bit like a canary in a mine, showing how these chemicals affect living organisms,” he stated
Dr. Di Lorenzo also stated that an added benefit of the device is that results are immediate. “This means we are able to monitor the level of pollutants in the water in real time without having to collect multiple samples and take them to a laboratory.”
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