When scientists test a water supply for deadly pathogens like E.coli bacteria, every second counts. A team of engineers at the University of Alberta have developed a new filter that can detect E.coli in a matter of minutes instead of the 24 or 48 hours required for current technologies. The filter traps E.coli and changes color when the bacteria is present. The researchers are working to tie the device to cell phone technology that alerts health workers.
The World Health Organization states that one billion people across the globe do not have access to clean water, and over two million people die by drinking contaminated water each year. Mechanical engineering professor Sushanta Mitra and his team created a test for E. coli that can be easily and inexpensively placed into wells. The system has already been tested in rural parts of India. “It feels extraordinary—the satisfaction is beyond words because of all the people this can touch,” Mitra says.
Mitra and colleagues worked with Tata Consultancy Services and King Edward Medical College to develop software support for the sensor. The team will be returning to India to conduct further tests and refine their device for use in the developing world.
Images via the University of Alberta and Wikicommons user Witmadrid.