Biosensor detects toxins in water sources

University of Cincinnati environmental engineers and chemists developed a biosensor to detect toxins in surface water such as streams, rivers and lakes. Funded through National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, the research was recently featured in an NSF video.

The research is led by Dionysios Dionysiou, professor of environmental engineering, and addresses the importance of detecting toxic products of cyanobacteria algal blooms, which are formed mainly by agricultural runoff. Project collaborators at UC include Vesselin Shanov, professor of chemical engineering; Ryan White, associate professor of electrical engineering and chemistry; and Bill Heineman, professor of chemistry.

The research team, including research assistant and environmental engineering Ph.D. student Vasileia Vogiazi whose work was featured in a previous article, created a sensor to identify and measure microcystins. These toxins are produced from algal blooms and can cause skin irritation, nausea or vomiting if swallowed, and liver damage if large amounts are ingested. Understanding the toxin’s impact on the water supply can aid water treatment plants to adjust the treatment strategy to keep these microcystins from contaminating drinking water.

Video courtesy of National Science Foundation.

Featured image at top: A satellite image of algal blooms on Lake Erie. Photo/Nasa.

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