Portable Rapid Sensor for Detection of E. Coli in Water

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The presence of harmful pathogens in drinking water can lead to illness, death and widespread outbreaks of diseases. The early detection of pathogens can save individual lives and more importantly prevent widespread life threatening infections and catastrophic outbreaks. We have developed a portable sensor capable of the rapid detection of E. coli in water to assure the safety of water for human consumption.

It traditionally takes 1-2 days for conventional methods o determine the presence of E. coli in water. The VeloCens (TM) sensor is based on an electrochemical platform and will detect bacteria in a matter of 1 hour due to its simple sensing mechanism. The device operates by monitoring the metabolic activity of the bacterial cells and changes in the pH of the local surroundings. Using the VeloCens (TM) system can significantly reduce the risk of illness associated with water contaminated with E. coli. It can help decide whether the water is safe to use, especially in rural areas where access to sophisticated laboratory facilities is scarce. In the unfortunate event of an outbreak, the sensor can help determine if E. coli is responsible for any infections from contaminated water. The capacity to use the sensor onsite can save time, resources and manpower where monitoring for E. coli is required.

Currently there are no devices present in the market for the rapid onsite detection of E. coli in water. The existing technology that can be used outside the lab also needs at least a day for results to appear. Our technology combines nanofibers with Light Addressable Potentiometric sensors, a method well-known to the scientific sensing community, to accurately find E. coli in water. This aids the sensor device to provide an answer much faster than traditional methods, in less than an hour.

We have developed a prototype based on the sensor that can be used in rural or remote communities, especially when treatment facilities and testing labs are far from the communities. We estimate that within the market of the province of Alberta, we can penetrate approximately 33% of the 45 First Nations communities present. Manufacturing the final product will be done with the help of medium sized companies in the water industry. We predict that the cost of the sensor device will ultimately be about $6000. The cost is higher than test kits; however, it eliminates periodic costs pertaining to purchasing individual kits as well as laboratory testing costs. Moreover, the vital information on the safety of water is provided in a fraction of the time offered currently by the products in the market.


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  • 2017 Electronics/Sensors/IoT Honorable Mention
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  • Name:
    Parmiss Mojir Shaibani
  • Type of entry:
    Team members:
    Parmiss Mojir Shaibani Amirreza Sohrabi
  • Software used for this entry:
  • Patent status: