Dr Sharon Velasquez Orta (Newcastle University) has been recognised by the MIT Technology Review as one the leading “Innovators under 35” for 2015 for her work on developing a low-cost biosensor of measuring groundwater quality. In the UPGro Catalyst project (INGROUND), she and colleagues from Newcastle University and Ardhi University have been developing the sensor in the lab and trialling it in Tanzania:
“Her biosensor detects fecal contamination in water reserves destined for human consumption”
“In low resource areas, like sub-saharan Africa, the absence of water quality data poses a serious risk. For this reason, Sharon Velasquez has harnessed the degradation process undertaken by some organic bacteria to generate electricity which allows her biosensor to detect fecal contamination within the water source.
“The microbial fuel cells (MFC) that Velasquez uses work like batteries, the difference being that with MFCs the current flow is generated by the electrically charged components that batteries produce upon charging.
“In this way it is possible to create sensors that detect the organic material present in the medium as the bacteria begins to metabolize the organic material.
“Velasquez´s biosensor is characteristic due to its cylindrical shape which allows the resulting chemical reaction to happen directly in the environment.
“This technology aims to address the issue of fecal contamination of water supplies, given that this cannot be continuously controlled via existing systems because the detection process is lengthier and requires greater human resources.”
The INGROUND project is due for completion later this year.
Source: http://innovatorsunder35.com/innovator/sharon-vel%C3%A1squez (accessed 13.08.2015)