Water monitoring device will provide fast diagnosis of deadly bacteria

August 3, 2018, CORDIS
Water monitoring device will provide fast diagnosis of deadly bacteria
Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

A novel microbial detection module will help water distribution networks speed up the process of contamination measuring. This will lead to significant savings with real-time critical data.

Waterborne infectious diseases constitute a major burden on human health. Contaminated water can lead to outbreaks of diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Such is estimated to cause 502 000 diarrhoeal deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization. That's why ensuring the microbiological safety of water is crucial.

A team of researchers backed by the EU-funded WaterSpy project is developing a device for pervasive and online monitoring of tap water. It's a portable laser-based water quality analyser that can be utilised at critical points on water distribution networks. It can provide a safety reading in a few hours rather than days, helping water utilities, public authorities and regulators save time and resources. The prototype is ready and the team will test it in two sites in Genova, at the Prato Water treatment plant and the entry point of the Genova water distribution network.

WaterSpy will focus on monitoring three of the most deadly bacteria strains: Escherichia coli, Salmonella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. As explained in a press release on the project website, these bacteria are often hard to detect as the concentration of contaminants can be low. "The current process involves water samples being taken and sent to a remote laboratory, and with bacteria traces often so small, a period of 24 hours is needed to allow the pathogens to cultivate." As a result, a full analysis could take up to 2-3 days. However, the research team hopes to get results in just 6 hours, about 12 times faster than the current standard.

Combining light and sound

WaterSpy relies on a laser configuration, photodetectors and ultrasound particle manipulation. The same press release explains: "It works by first gathering small traces of bacteria and then detecting them with a laser." Ultrasound is used to congregate the bacteria in the water sample in order to enhance the detection and sensitivity. A measurement technique called attenuated total reflection will be used, enabling a sample to be examined directly in the liquid state. "Beams of infrared (IR) light are sent into a diamond over which the water flows. The IR light then reflects off the internal surface in contact with the water sample, before being collected by a detector as it exits the crystal."

The ongoing WaterSpy (High sensitivity, portable photonic device for pervasive water quality analysis) project was set up to develop water quality analysis photonics technology suitable for online field measurements. For validation purposes, WaterSpy technology will be integrated into an existing commercial water quality monitoring platform in the form of a portable add-on. According to the team, WaterSpy technology is relatively cheap and will comply with strict requirements in terms of specificity and sensitivity levels in the wake of new drinking regulations.

Explore further: Smartphone sensor can detect dirty water

More information: WaterSpy project website: waterspy.eu/

Related Stories

Smartphone sensor can detect dirty water

March 26, 2018

Denmark, like many other European countries, is lucky. When we pour ourselves a refreshing glass of tap water, we generally don't need to worry about bacteria.

New device for quick and accurate detection of lead

May 16, 2018

A research team from the Department of Chemistry of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has invented a portable device for one-stop detection of lead concentration in drinking water. The DNA-based device, which works together ...

Recommended for you

When a defect might be beneficial

February 19, 2019

In the quest to design more efficient solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), a team of engineers has analyzed different types of defects in the semiconductor material that enables such devices to determine if and how ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.