Laser-based In-situ Testing of Microbes with Ultraviolet Spectroscopy (LITMUS)

EPA Contract Number: 68HERC21C0010
Title: Laser-based In-situ Testing of Microbes with Ultraviolet Spectroscopy (LITMUS)
Investigators: Bhartia, Rohit
Small Business: Photon Systems, Inc.
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: March 1, 2021 through August 31, 2021
Project Amount: $99,985
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2021) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Water , SBIR - Clean and Safe Water


This proposal addresses the need for continuous microbial monitoring in water reuse treatment systems. The proposal will lead to a near-real-time, in-situ, reagentless sensor for potable and non-potable water systems. LITMUS (Laser-based In- situ Testing of Microbes with Ultraviolet Spectroscopy) uses deep UV laser excitation to directly detect microbes from the autofluorescence of protein-bound aromatic amino acids. LITMUS mitigates the challenges of current microbial detection methods being used by enabling an in-line/continuous flow, autonomous, no consumables method, with a detection range from >1x106 cells/ml, down to <10 microbial cells/ml. LITMUS will enable sampling and analysis of 1 ml of water every second and its design simplicity leads to low cost systems with minimal maintenance. The capabilities the LITMUS enables implementation of microbial monitoring at all scales of wastewater facilities, centralized and decentralized/on-site, that reusing water for non-potable and indirect/direct potable water.

Under this Phase 1 effort, Photon Systems will demonstrate microbial detection, differentiability of microbes, and quantitation for use in a continuous flow microbial monitoring system with unprecedented temporal resolution for direct detection of microbes. The effort leverages TRL 9 components from our current NASA life-detection efforts as well as prior DOD, NSF, DTRA efforts and brings the deep UV spectroscopy technology to water quality assessment.