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3D-Printed Device Detects Water Pollution Using Bacteria

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p01dqxdzWith continuous depletion of fresh water resources around the world, monitoring water pollution is becoming more important than ever. Existing methods and instruments are often too complicated and too expensive for many rural communities.

A team of researchers in the UK, however, has developed a device that is powered by bacteria and can detect the smallest of concentrations without fancy high-tech technology.

Scientists from the Department of Chemical Engineering at University of Bath, in collaboration with researchers from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of the West of England designed a simple, yet highly efficient and accurate, device that allows real-time monitoring of water quality. The instrument was developed using 3D printing technology and it is filled with bacteria, which releases an electric current when being fed. These bacteria are highly sensitive to pollutants, and their sensitivity is expressed in the amount of charge they release.

To test their prototype, the team decided to insert various amounts of pollutants in the water, where they placed their device. They observed that as the concentrations increase, the electric current immediately drops. As soon as the pollutants are removed, the bacterial activity and the release of charge goes back to normal. Not only that, the team was even able to establish a statistical relationship between the amount of toxins and the drop in energy released by the bacteria.

The bio-sensor is sensitive to very small concentrations of pollutants, it is cheap and it is very easy to use. All these make it affordable to small communities around the world, who need such technology the most, but right now are unable to invest in high-tech or time consuming measurements.

The device is seen as a real breakthrough in monitoring water quality. With climate change putting more and more pressure on fresh water resources, such technology is seen as life-saving.

The findings were published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

Image (c) Getty

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