- Title: Screen-printed paper could pinpoint toxic water in developing world
- Date: 16th January 2018
- Summary: RAYAGADA, ODISHA, INDIA (FILE - MAY 6, 2014) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (ANI - NO ACCESS MEDIACORP/BBC) WOMEN WALKING ON TRACK WITH POTS ON THEIR HEAD TO FETCH WATER VARIOUS OF WOMEN FILLING WATER POTS FROM MUDDY STREAM
- Embargoed: 30th January 2018 12:04
- Keywords: litmus Mirella Di Lorenzo University of Bath carbon electrodes pollution polluted water toxic water
- Location: BATH, ENGLAND, UK / FILE LOCATIONS
- City: BATH, ENGLAND, UK / FILE LOCATIONS
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA0017YD1VTN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:A small square of paper, screen-printed with carbon electrodes, could be used to test water for toxic compounds in the developing world.
Scientists at the University of Bath in south-west England developed the proof-of-concept device as a low-cost, fast and simple test to be used in low-income countries where a safe drinking water supply is not always available.
The research, led by senior lecturer Dr. Mirella Di Lorenzo, was inspired by the simplicity of litmus paper, often used to quickly assess acidity in water.
It used biofilm bacteria on carbon-based electrodes printed on to a single sheet of paper.
The electrodes were incubated in fluid from an anaerobic digester to create the biofilm.
This created a microbial fuel cell that generated an electrical signal. Monitoring changes in the signal can be used to detect whether water is safe to drink.
"All that we need to do is the recording of the background current signal that this device gives you, then put it into the sample of water that we want to test and see whether this signal drops or stays constant. If it drops, it means there is something bad in the water," explained Dr. Di Lorenzo.
The paper sensor is a cheap solution, with each device expected to cost no more than 1 pound ($1.35), as well as being biodegradable and portable.
"It can be used at site and it gives a very fast response, so we are talking about seconds," added Di Lorenzo.
The researchers are investigating a way to link the paper sensor to devices like smartphones to make it more user-friendly.
"In the future, any output from this device will be interfaced with a mobile phone and you'll have a smiling face or something if the water is not safe to drink," said Di Lorenzo, adding: "This is something that would help in the first step. It's like a warning tool that tells you at site that tells you, yes the water is safe, or not."
The researchers say an improved device could be the ideal tool to improve access to safe drinking water.
The research was published in the Biosensors and Bioelectronics Journal.
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