Navigation Links
A water test for the world

HAMILTON, April 28, 2014 Inspiration can come in many forms, but this one truly was a breath of fresh air.

A group of McMaster researchers has solved the problem of cumbersome, expensive and painfully slow water-testing by turning the process upside-down.

Instead of shipping water to the lab, they have created a way to take the lab to the water, putting potentially life-saving technology into the hands of everyday people.

The team has reduced the sophisticated chemistry required for testing water safety to a simple pill, by adapting technology found in a dissolving breath strip. Want to know if a well is contaminated? Drop a pill in a vial of water and shake vigorously. If the colour changes, there's the answer.

The development has the potential to dramatically boost access to quick and affordable testing around the world.

"We got the inspiration from the supermarket," says Carlos Filipe, a professor of chemical engineering who worked on the project.

The idea occurred to team member Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, a PhD student in Chemical Engineering who came across the breath strips while shopping and realized the same material used in the dissolving strips could have broader applications.

The technology is expected to have significant public health applications for testing water in remote areas and developing countries that lack testing infrastructure, for example.

The researchers have now created a way to store precisely measured amounts of enzymes and other active agents in pills made from the same naturally occurring substance used in breath strips, putting lab-quality science within instant and easy reach of people who need quick answers to questions such as whether their water is safe.

"This is regular chemistry that we know works but is now in pill form," says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Institute, where the work took place. "The user can be anybody in a village somewhere who can take a pill out of a bottle and drop it in water."

The material, called pullulan, forms a solid when dry, and protects sensitive agents from oxygen and temperature changes that can render them useless within hours. Until now, such agents have had to be stored at extremely cold temperatures and shipped in vials packed in huge chunks of dry ice, at great cost and inconvenience. Using them has been awkward, bulky and often wasteful.

The new method, described in an article published online in the prestigious European chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, also holds promise for other applications, such as packaging that could change colour if food is spoiled.

"Can you modify packaging so it has a sensor to tell you if your chicken has gone off?" Brennan asks. "The reason that doesn't exist today is because there's no way you can keep these agents stable enough."

The new method allows the same materials to be stored virtually anywhere for months inside tiny pills that dissolve readily in liquid. The pills are inexpensive to produce and anyone can add them to well water, for an instant reading of pesticides, e. coli or metals, for example.

The new technology can easily be scaled up and find its way to market quickly, says Brennan. Pullulan is already approved for wide commercial use and is mass produced, which can speed the journey to market.

Contact: Wade Hemsworth
905-525-1940 x27988
McMaster University

Related biology news :

1. How to avoid water wars between fracking industry and residents
2. Connecticut River watershed study will assess impacts of extreme rain events
3. New research focuses on streamwater chemistry, landscape variation
4. UH student named Goldwater Scholar, 2 more receive honorable mention
5. Earth Week: Bark beetles change Rocky Mountain stream flows, affect water quality
6. Recycling industrial waste water
7. Puget Sounds rich waters supplied by deep, turbulent canyon
8. Fish from acidic ocean waters less able to smell predators
9. Oyster aquaculture could significantly improve Potomac River estuary water quality
10. Most schools meet USDA drinking water mandate; more steps needed to encourage consumption
11. Geology spans the minute and gigantic, from skeletonized leaves in China to water on mars
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/10/2015)...  In this report, the biomarkers market ... type, application, disease indication, and geography. The ... consumables, services, software. The type segments included ... biomarkers, and validation biomarkers. The applications segments ... drug discovery and development, personalized medicine, disease ...
(Date:11/4/2015)... New York , November 4, 2015 ... to a new market report published by Transparency Market ... Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2015 - 2022", the global ... of US$ 30.3 bn by 2022. The market is ... the forecast period from 2015 to 2022. Rising security ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... -- Daon, a global leader in mobile biometric authentication ... version of its IdentityX Platform , IdentityX v4.0. ... have already installed IdentityX v4.0 and are seeing ... UAF certified server component as an option and ... These customers include some of the largest and most ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/1/2015)... ALEXANDRIA, Va. , Dec. 1, 2015 ... provides senior debt to life sciences and healthcare services ... senior secured term loan with MDRejuvena, Inc. ("the Company"). ... commercialization and continued development of the Company,s Rejuvaphyl™ and ... --> Rejuvaphyl is the MDRejuvena brand of high ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... , ... December 01, 2015 , ... ... announces Park NX10 SICM Module, an add-on scanning ion conductance microscopy module to ... of SICM to an AFM. , Park SICM benefits virtually all materials characterization ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... , Dec. 1, 2015 Cepheid (Nasdaq: ... its participation at the Piper Jaffray Healthcare Conference in ... morning, the Company is reaffirming its outlook for the ... 2016, in addition to discussing longer term business model ... Chief Executive Officer.  "We continue to be the fastest ...
(Date:12/1/2015)... , December 1, 2015 ... addition of the  "2016 U.K. Virology and ... Forecasts for 100 Tests, Supplier Shares by ...  report to their offering.  --> ... the  "2016 U.K. Virology and Bacteriology Testing ...
Breaking Biology Technology: