Futuristic ‘Biosensor’ Improves Water Quality Testing

SBT Aqua Biosensor Water Quality MonitorNot too long ago we ran an article about testing water quality at home. In that piece, we touched a little bit on how testing for water contaminants can be a tricky business. While on the one hand there are some pretty easy DIY methods to get a general assessment of your water quality, knowing exactly what is in your water still takes some expert help.

And even the experts could use some help, especially in the form of new technology like this biosensor being developed by the Danish company SBT Aqua. While certainly not the end-all-be-all, this device could give the industry another powerful tool in their quest to monitor water quality.

What the SBT Aqua Biosensor Can Do

This biosensor won’t tell you exactly what is in your water, and it is not designed to do so. What it is designed to do is give you some idea of how much bacteria and contaminant is in a given water sample. It does this using a technology known as “impedance flow cytometry,” a process where electricity is passed through water samples while monitoring impedance change to detect contaminants.

According to SBT Aqua, this is an innovative and cutting edge approach. I first ran into news of this new biosensor on the Gadgeteer blog, where Gustav Skands, the CEO of SBT Aqua, has left some illuminating comments:

“We investigate the total bacteria level with a technology which is able to detect all bacteria in water (up to 10.000-100.000/ml in clean drinking water depending on the source) and monitor any changes to this level – preferably every 10/15 minutes. Traditional non-specific laboratory plate counts will only reveal a very small percentage of the bacteria in a given sample because most bacteria in water do not grow in the agar media under the provided growth conditions. Our studies show that when harmful bacteria enter a system, e.g. waste water heavily diluted in drinking water, you will also see a huge increase in other bacteria, as the harmful bacteria are not “flying solo”. Instead of using specific harmful bacteria such as e. coli as an indicator, we use the rapid rise in the total bacteria level to identify contaminations. I believe our advantage to traditional lab-analysis processes is our much larger statistical data foundation, which may be less accurate on a single sample point, but the accumulation of sample points every 10/15 minutes adds up and ultimately provides a much better overview of the quality of the water compared a single sample point every 3/7/14 days. Of course I am very biased, but hopefully this gives you a better idea of our way of thinking.”

The “Magic Bullet” For Water Quality Monitoring


The way the SBT Aqua Biosensor device works does not actually provide any direct information about what type of bacteria or contaminants are in the water, so it is not the “magic bullet” technology we will hopefully one day have which can tell you immediately what sort of contaminants you are looking at. Most bacteria and other water borne contaminants are utterly harmless, so knowing how much bacteria is in a sample is nowhere near as useful as knowing which bacteria are actually present.

Regardless, innovations like SBT Aqua’s biosensor represent a step in the right direction and have the potential to improve water quality by providing accurate monitoring of bacteria levels and allowing experts to see the early warning signs if there is a problem.

Learn More About SBT Aqua

The SBT Aqua Biosensor is slated for a release sometime in 2016. If you want to learn more about the project, visit the SBT Aqua website.


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This new biosensor from SBT Aqua could improve the way we test for water contaminants. Learn how it works.

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