Scientists develop rapid water-germ detecting biosensor

Researchers with the South Wales-based Cassidian Systems have developed a small, automated biosensor that is able to detect and identify dangerous pathogens in water in a matter of minutes.

The process of identifying deadly germs in water typically takes up to two days in a laboratory. Field tests with the device have confirmed its ability to produce real-time, reliable data during the normal operations of a water facility, Wales Online reports.

"Growing concern about drinking water safety and the highly distributive nature of water supplies highlights the importance of being able to detect intentional contamination very quickly, so that it can be put right and the number of people affected by it identified," Robert Aitchson, a technologist with Cassidian, said, according to Wales Online. "Examples would be hospital water supplies, where the intentional introduction of bacteria into a vulnerable environment could lead to a very serious situation, and in the food industry."

Further tests are needed before the system can be implemented in the regulatory water industry. The biosensor may also be useful in the food and drink industry and in identifying airborne biological agents for the military. The active component of the device is a micro-mechanical filter created from a silicon wafer using a batch manufacturing process similar to that of a computer chip. Laser light is used to detect the germs after mixing them with antibodies that have been industrially manufactured.