Scientists have come up with paper strips that when impregnated with carbon nanotubes can detect a toxin produced by algae in drinking water.
Engineers at the University of Michigan have developed the new biosensor that provides a quick, cheap, portable and sensitive test that detects microcystin-LR, a chemical compound produced by cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae.
Nicholas Kotov, a professor in the departments of Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering who led the project, said the paper strips, that perform 28 times faster than the complicated method, will help verify the safety of water on a more regular basis.
Kotov said: "The safety of drinking water is a vital issue in many developing countries and in many parts of the United States. We've developed a simple and inexpensive technology to detect multiple toxins."
The whole device is about the size of a home pregnancy test, Kotov said. Results appear in fewer than 12 minutes.
The paper is called "Simple, Rapid, Sensitive and Versatile SWNT-Paper Sensor for Environmental Toxin Detection Competitive with ELISA."
This research was done in collaboration with the laboratory of professor Chuanlai Xu at Wuxi University in China. It is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the National Institutes of Health, as well as the National Science Foundation of China and the 11th Five Years Key Programs for Science and Technology Development of China.
A paper about the technique was published online in Nano Letters.