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Clean water testing vital to billions

It is something we use daily, and when traces of it are detected on other planets it causes widespread excitement. Water is at the centre of all life as we know it and makes up the majority of the planet we call home. Yet clean water is a different story. Even in this age of innovation, when self-driving cars and holidays to space are on the horizon, access to clean water for all is a goal, not a reality.

How Often Should You Test Your Drinking Water? Private Well Water ...

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that in 2017 2.2 billion people did not have access to safely managed drinking water, and that contamination of drinking water is approximated to cause 485,000 diarrhoeal deaths annually. The importance of clean water is highlighted even more so in these current times during the COVID-19 pandemic when the importance of regular and thorough hand washing is driven home.

 

The WHO highlights the importance of testing drinking water, and determined that fluoride and arsenic are some of the most important contaminants to test for. Traditional testing methods include mass spectrometry and polymerase chain reaction. These techniques need to be executed by trained operators and cannot be completed on-site. Moreover, they are time-consuming and require expensive equipment.

 

A potential alternative can be found in biosensors. These come in many shapes and forms, although the two most commonly described types are electrochemical and optical biosensors, referring to the transduction method. Biosensors are made up of two main components: a receptor and transducer. The receptor is specific to one particle or organism, for example a contaminant such as E. coli. Once the target has bound to the receptor, a change is elicited and a signal generated that a transducer turns into a signal that we can read. It can tell us whether a set threshold has been passed or not, or even provide a quantitative value. This design allows biosensors generally to be faster, simpler and portable, so that testing can be executed on-site and not only by trained technicians. They are also highly sensitive and more affordable.

 

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