Handheld Microfluidic Device for Cyanobacteria Toxin Detection and Monitoring

EPA Contract Number: EPD13014
Title: Handheld Microfluidic Device for Cyanobacteria Toxin Detection and Monitoring
Investigators: Jiao, Hong
Small Business: HJ Science & Technology Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: May 15, 2013 through November 14, 2013
Project Amount: $79,957
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Water , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


HJ Science & Technology, Inc., proposes to demonstrate the feasibility of an integrated “lab-on-a-chip” technology capable of rapid and real time detection and identification of a variety of toxins in drinking water, particularly microcystins and other toxins produced by cyanobacteria.  During blooms, the toxins in freshwater become concentrated enough to be a serious concern for a human health, causing damages to liver and nerve axons. The proposed technology is inexpensive, easy to use and has a handheld platform. Compared with laboratory-based methods, on-site portable detection platform offers these advantages: (1) reduction in time and cost, (2) real-time data for better and more timely decision making and (3) reduction in sample consumption. Our handheld device is designed to address several shortcomings of current electrochemical membrane sensors.  Specifically, it is designed to perform rapid detections of multiple toxins with sensitivity and specificity that are only currently achievable with laboratory-based instruments. We will transfer enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to our microfluidic format which has a fully automated platform for microparticle label immunoassays. By using fluorescence detection, we can achieve sub-ppb levels of detection sensitivities for a variety of chemicals and toxins in low concentrations in water to meet the stringent regulatory requirement. In Phase I, we will focus on microcystins because they are one of the most common cyanobacteria toxins in the Great Lakes and other sources of drinking water in the United States. Our approach is to adapt the established immunoassay protocols to our microfluidic platform, which consists of portable miniature instrumentation and a disposable microfluidic cartridge. In Phase II, the focus will be the development of a robust handheld prototype capable of performing on-site detections of a variety of cyanobacteria toxins. We will validate the assays using real samples by comparing to standard ELISA assays as well as other established laboratory-based instrument such as HPLC/MS. In addition, we will incorporate the capability of simultaneous detection of multiple toxins into the Phase II prototype. Working with our EPA Technical Points of Contact, we will also promote the product for use in assays for detecting other substances of concern as a part of an effort to develop the technology for the commercial markets.  In Phase III, we will begin manufacturing for commercial use. The key target audiences include resource manager, public health officials, aquaculture facilities, etc.

Supplemental Keywords:

cyanobacteria toxins, drinking water, electrochemical membrane sensors, fluorescence detection, ELISA

Relevant Websites:

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    Handheld microfluidic device for cyanobacteria toxin detection and monitoring  | Final Report