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 Road access for all would be costly, but not so much for the climate
10.07.2020 | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung

nachricht Innovative grilling technique improves air quality
01.07.2020 | Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP

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: A new path for electron optics in solid-state systems

A novel mechanism for electron optics in two-dimensional solid-state systems opens up a route to engineering quantum-optical phenomena in a variety of materials

Electrons can interfere in the same manner as water, acoustical or light waves do. When exploited in solid-state materials, such effects promise novel...

Im Focus: Electron cryo-microscopy: Using inexpensive technology to produce high-resolution images

Biochemists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have used a standard electron cryo-microscope to achieve surprisingly good images that are on par with those taken by far more sophisticated equipment. They have succeeded in determining the structure of ferritin almost at the atomic level. Their results were published in the journal "PLOS ONE".

Electron cryo-microscopy has become increasingly important in recent years, especially in shedding light on protein structures. The developers of the new...

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tiny bubbles make a quantum leap

15.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Higher-order topology found in 2D crystal

15.07.2020 | Materials Sciences

Russian scientists have discovered a new physical paradox

15.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>