back to article Bath boffins put BUGS on chips – on purpose

Don't debug this chip: boffins at the University of Bath have embedded bacteria on a chip to create a cheap water-quality sensor. Instead of needing expensive lab kit to see if water is safe to drink – a serious problem anywhere the civil infrastructure is lacking – the bio-sensor contains bacteria that produce an electric …

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Neat.

The bulk of the sensor should be fairly simple and relatively undemanding as it's basically a special purpose volt meter.

However the cell will probably have to be replaceable/disposable because the bacteria are going to die at high concentrations.

Likewise if you want a spectrum of nasties it can detect you'll want exchangeable cartridges on this thing.

Still thumbs up for a lightweight, low power simple device.

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Re: Neat.

Neat, but the spectrum is the thing to look at.

Something that's bad for those bacteria may be completely harmless to us, and vice versa. It's also not telling you which pollutant is in the water, just that there's something there that may possibly be bad for you.

It's nice for quick 'n dirty work, but you've got reagent kits that are just as efficient, and tell you more about what's going on..

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Re: Neat.

if you add the right sensor molecule to the bacteria, it can be persuaded to give you a signal for pretty much anything.

My biosensor use fluorescent proteins and tells me the state of a specific mammalian membrane protein that has been added to a bacteria.

Since data can be remotely collected i.e. using camera, it is amenable to upstream computer analysis...

This is a rapidly growing discipline...(sic)!

P.

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Re: Neat.

I am aware of the possibilities, and worked with the first-gen versions of the technique some 20 years ago. It's very nice, but hardly "cheap".

There is, of course, the teensiest caveat regarding using heavily modified bacteria outside of a laboratory as well. the Hippies** et.al would probably have an objection or two...

** insert the usual El Reg Hippie disclaimer here.

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I wonder if they could use other bacteria to detect other stuff?

Like hazardous chemicals or gold.

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Coat

What if ?

What if some hazardous chemicals in the water damage the bacteria's DNA

causing it to divide and grow uncontrollably ?

(cancer on a chip... that's what... and of course a whole new idea for a movie !)

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Black Helicopters

Re: What if ?

The hope is that exposing the devices to a variety of conditions globally will result in a mutant self-powered machine that can then be used for military purposes.

Scientists have built-in controls to prevent these devices becoming self aware. Or at least self aware before April 11, 2019 (there was a typo in the widely known dates when machines were supposed to become aware....)

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Boffin

Re: What if ?

What, dividing every 20 mins is not fast enough for you?

Seriously, E.coli has already had that mutation millions of years ago, it needs it to live!!!

Uncontrollable growth is usually only a problem in a closed system e.g. humans, as the depletion of resources if the natural limit.

There are microbes that can divide in 5 mins - think about how long that would take to cover the Earth if it could maintain exponential growth!!!

P.

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