The new work demonstrates that the technology that uses algae as sentinels has broader applications than previously reported, according to authors Miguel Rodriguez Jr. and Elias Greenbaum of the Department of Energy's ORNL. For example, under real-world operating conditions, the sensitivity of the algae to toxins has a natural daily cycle that tracks the sun.
"When the sun is overhead and shining brightly, the algae are less sensitive to the toxins," Greenbaum said. "The new work shows that keeping the water sample in darkness for about 30 minutes prior to testing for toxins restores full sensitivity to the test."
The new results also show that the technology can be applied to many different water quality environments such as when the algae are starved for nutrients.
"Our key result is that despite real-world conditions that create challenges, free-living microalgae combined with 'work-around' strategies can be used as broad-spectrum automated biosensor systems for continuous monitoring of source drinking water," Greenbaum said.
The process uses a fluorometer to measure the fluorescence signal of algae that grow naturally in source water such as Tennessee's Clinch River, which was used in this study. Researchers exploit the known characteristics of Photosystems I and II, which convert light energy into chemical energy, to detect any changes in the process of photosynthesis.
"Recent advances in optoelectronics and portability make this a powerful technology for monitoring the in situ physiology of aquatic photosynthetic organisms such as green algae and cyanobacteria," the authors wrote. Even low levels of toxins alter fluorescence patterns within minutes.
Another significant aspect of this work is the reporting of statistically reliable data on the threshold detection levels for broad classes of toxins such as blood and nerve agents and agrochemicals. These levels are at or near Environmental Protection Agency regulatory guidelines, Greenbaum said.
For this study, the researchers looked at five classes of chemical agents in water: Diuron, atrazine, paraquat, methyl parathion and potassium cyanide. All are known to be harmful to human health. In the case of Diuron, used in agriculture for 50 years, Greenbaum and Rodriguez were able to detect 1 part per million. This was indicated by a 17 percent decline in the algae's Photosystem II efficiency.
"We have shown that microalgae in source drinking water can be used as broad-spectrum, robust sentinel sensors to detect relatively low concentrations of toxins," Greenbaum said. "We have also shown that the microalgae do not need to be in an optimized state for this technology to be effective."
This research was funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and BAE Systems. Discussions for commercialization of this technology, to be marketed under the name AquaSentinel, are under way.
UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy.
Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society
Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine