new biosensor which uses antibody-based technology has been shown to
detect marine pollutants such as oil cheaper and faster than current
technology. Tests of the new biosensor, published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, reveal how it could be used for the early detection and tracking of oil spills.
biosensor has been developed by researchers at the Virginia Institute
of Marine Science (VIMS) and was tested in the Elizabeth River and
Yorktown Creek which both drain into Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay.
biosensor combines the power of the immune system with the sensitivity
of cutting-edge electronics,” says Dr. Mike Unger of VIMS. “It holds
great promise for real-time detection and monitoring of oil spills and
other releases of contaminants into the marine environment.”
basic idea was to fuse two different kinds of technologies— monoclonal
antibodies and electronic sensors—in order to detect contaminants,” said
Dr Stephen Kaattari.
tests in the Elizabeth River took place during the dredging of a site
contaminated by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the byproduct
of the industrial use of creosote to treat marine pilings.
biosensor demonstrated the ability to process water samples in less
than 10 minutes and detected pollutants at levels as low as just a few
parts per billion.
portable biosensor carried out this sampling at a fraction of the cost
of the expensive, slower, and laboratory-bound alternatives which are
currently available, while remaining just as accurate.
team used the biosensor to survey an area of almost 9,000 square meters
around the Elizabeth River, providing information about the size and
intensity of contaminants to engineers who were monitoring the dredging
from the shore.
promising use of the biosensor is the early detection and tracking of
oil spills. “If biosensors were placed near an oil facility and there
was a spill, we would know immediately,” says Kaattari. “And because we
could see concentrations increasing or decreasing in a certain pattern,
we could also monitor the dispersal over real time.”