Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Student sensor sniffs out danger

05.12.2007
A team of students from the University of Glasgow have designed a device which can sniff out pollution and then generate its own electricity to set off an early-warning system.

The self-powered biosensor acts just like a canary down a mine shaft and could be used to warn of chemical leaks before they become too damaging to humans and the environment.

Millions of pounds are spent each year preventing industrial accidents, but this simple sensor can make detection both simpler and cheaper. It can sense leaks at industrial plants, oil pipelines and landfill sites.

The students came up with the world’s first self-powered biosensor as part of a prestigious international competition.

And the judges were so impressed with the device, they awarded them first prize.

Student Scott Ramsay said: “The research involved engineering a microbe that detects toxic chemicals — like those resulting from oil and natural gas refineries. When the microbes detect the offending chemicals they synthesise a chemical causing the fuel cells to generate electricity that can trigger a signal to act as an early warning system.

“It could be also integrated into a wireless early warning communications systems leading to a network of analytical stations in rivers, lakes and wells allowing industry to measure the amount of toxins in effluent so they can keep within environmentally safe and legal levels. The technology could also be further developed to detect pesticide levels, for example, pesticides in baby food or toxins in drinking water.

“Our sensor won the first prize in the Environment section of the International Genetically Engineered Machine awards.

“The competition involved teams from leading universities around the world designing and building genetically engineered devices in the newly emerging field of synthetic biology. The work took place over the summer and culminated in an event at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, where 53 teams from 20 countries presented their research to an international set of judges.”

The University of Glasgow are now looking to secure funding to develop the sensor further.

The multi-disciplinary team of 11 students combined their knowledge of molecular biology, computing, engineering, mathematics and statistics to win first prize in Environment track, and a gold medal, successfully overcoming strong competition from other teams including Ivy League universities MIT and Brown.

Team mentor and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Lecturer, Dr Susan Rosser said: “This is a fantastic achievement for this young team. It is the first time Glasgow has entered the iGEM competition, and to see real life practical applications from the project is excellent.”

Professor David Gilbert from the University’s Department of Computing Science said: “The team really worked together so well, and put a lot of effort into their project. I am also proud of all the members of the advisory team who made themselves available over the summer. This result has helped to put Glasgow on the international map in synthetic biology.”

Dr Ed Hutchinson, Project Manager of Scottish Enterprise's Technology Team, who provided sponsorship for the project, said: "The team's success in such a prestigious international competition is a fantastic achievement. Synthetic biology is an emerging field of science with enormous commercial potential across a range of industries

"For Scotland to be seen to be leading in this area would help to strengthen our already world capabilities spanning electronics, engineering and life sciences and we will be looking at how we can work alongside our universities and research institutes to capitalise on the opportunities that this could have for growing Scotland's economy."

Martin Shannon | alfa
Further information:
http://www.gla.ac.uk/news/headline_56846_en.html

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Smallest transistor worldwide switches current with a single atom in solid electrolyte

17.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Robots as Tools and Partners in Rehabilitation

17.08.2018 | Information Technology

Climate Impact Research in Hannover: Small Plants against Large Waves

17.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>