Mobile Analysis System Detects Nasty Contaminants

In hopes of eliminating the time-consuming laboratory tests necessary to detect pollutants and contaminants in liquids such as drinking water or juices, a novel mobile measuring device developed by Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS in cooperation with CapSenze can quickly and reliably detect the presence of biochemical substances. 


Pesticides in fruit and vegetables, hormones and antibiotics in meat, mycotoxins in foodstuffs and animal feed, or bacteria and germs in drinking water - polluted or otherwise contaminated food and drink pose an obvious and significant health risk. Traditionally, time-consuming and expensive laboratory tests were necessary in many cases to detect these pollutants and contaminants in foodstuffs and liquids. A biosensor system developed by the Swedish company CapSenze, which integrates an optimized evaluation circuit from Fraunhofer IIS, can analyze liquids by means of biochemical sensors in a couple of minutes. The system is suited for mobile use due to its convenient size which is comparable to a box of matches.

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The biosensor system can be used for on-site detection of contaminants in water and all water-soluble substances. It can also be employed for mobile food-stuff inspection, to monitor food chains and for detecting doping agents.


Six different substances can be measured simultaneously


Supplying measurement data in the pico- to femtomole (10-12-10-15 moles per liter) range, the six different sensors of the biosensor system allow simultaneous detection of six different substances. Different sensor coatings, depending on the substance to be detected, are used to determine the presence of unwanted substances in food-stuffs and animal feed. The biosensor system is a highly sensitive piece of equipment which can identify, with the corresponding sensor coating, the presence of biochemical substances such as hormones, pesticides and mycotoxins in extremely low concentrations.


The biosensor system employs molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs). The gold-plated electrodes of the device are coated with these selective MIPs. In the same way that a footprint makes an impression in wet cement, the molecules of the specific target sub-stance are imprinted in these polymers. When the molecules of the pollutant or contaminant meet the corresponding molecularly imprinted polymer, they then form a bond and change the electrical properties of the electrode. Each sensor is designed to react solely to a specific target substance and can even detect it in extremely low concentrations.


Mobile applications for highly accurate measurements


The evaluation component of this biosensor system has been developed by Fraunhofer IIS in the form of an integrated, capacitive evaluation circuit which boasts a measuring resolution of below 0.1%. Further advantages of this application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) are its low energy consumption in the microwatt range and, through its integration, the small dimensions of the entire biosensor system of just a few centimeters. This means that the device is suitable for mobile applications, enabling quick on-site testing that is just as reliable but considerably less expensive than lab tests. In parallel, CapSenze has developed a new miniaturized transducer chip with six measurement electrodes. Compared to conventional measurement devices, this equipment can analyze six different substances simultaneously. Because the automatic control of all functions, the system works autonomously without the need for human intervention.


Should you have questions or require further information, visit Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS.


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