Environmental Sensing System Enhanced With Nested Concentrating Electrodes (ESSENCE) for Safe and Sustainable Water Resources

EPA Contract Number: EPD14025
Title: Environmental Sensing System Enhanced With Nested Concentrating Electrodes (ESSENCE) for Safe and Sustainable Water Resources
Investigators: Collins, Dr. John
Small Business: Biopico Systems
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: May 1, 2014 through April 30, 2015
Project Amount: $100,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Drinking Water and Water Monitoring


Water quality is critical for human health and habitation, so a timely identification of pathogens is necessary to avoid severe infections and ensure safe and sustainable water resources. Most of the existing microorganism concentration methods are based on filtration using size or charge membranes, and a generic membrane-filtration method with the ability to simultaneously concentrate all microorganisms from water with large recovery percentages is difficult to achieve. Electrical impedance/capacitance methods offer poor sensitivity and selectivity. Automated or semiautomated DNA, antibody or biochemical-based methods have been proven to detect pathogens, but they require additive chemicals and lack the capability of repeating measurements. Therefore, fast pre-processing and ultrasensitive/specific tools that offer portability and repeated measurements are required for detecting pathogenic microorganisms in remote field locations. With advances in microfluidic technologies, miniaturized analytical devices integrated on a chip-scale platform have become a promising alternative for carrying out biodetection.

To accomplish this significant mission of testing water quality, Biopico Systems teams up with the University of California, Irvine, to propose a highly innovative, label-free, reagents-free, doubly concentrating, portable platform to extract the essence of environment water for pathogen monitoring. The remotely operated Environmental Sensing System Enhanced with Nested Concentrating Electrodes (ESSENCE) system is equipped with a portable, inexpensive spectral reader that can identify different strains of pathogens and transmit the data to a server for water-quality analysis and pathogen detection. This system can capture pathogens of sizes ranging from nanometers to micrometers in diameter. In this approach, bacterial cells are selectively detected from other cell types within the crude sample. The proposed device can concentrate specific target cells from the water sample matrices into a 0.5-ml collection chamber, providing 5 to 10 orders of magnitudes of concentration factor. The presented method of continuous label-free sample processing offers a simple and robust microfluidic interface for a chip-scale platform.
The ESSENCE platform combines several in-house technologies of Biopico Systems to rapidly separate and sense waterborne pathogens. The global market for biodetection is projected to be $5.6 billion in 2016, with 76 submarkets at a compounded annual growth rate of 12 percent. The ESSENCE device will succeed in maximizing the signal, minimizing human intervention, increasing sensitivity, and avoiding additional reagents; it also will have the ability to differentiate between live- and dead-cell pathogens. These innovations will provide unprecedented opportunities for developing automated high­performance pathogen detection as part of a comprehensive effort to tackle bio-terrorism.

Supplemental Keywords:

Sensing, electrodes, water, biodetection, pathogen

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report