Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Water test for the world: Simple pill brings lab to water to test for contamination

Date:
April 28, 2014
Source:
McMaster University
Summary:
The problem of cumbersome, painfully slow water-testing has been solved by researchers who have turned the process upside-down by creating a way to take the lab to the water, putting potentially life-saving technology into a tiny pill. The team has reduced the sophisticated chemistry required for testing water safety to a simple pill, by adapting technology found in a dissolving breath strip. Want to know if a well is contaminated? Drop a pill in a vial of water and shake vigorously. If the color changes, there's the answer.

"We got the inspiration from the supermarket," says Carlos Filipe, a professor of chemical engineering who worked on the project.
Credit: Image courtesy of McMaster University

Inspiration can come in many forms, but this one truly was a breath of fresh air.

Related Articles


A group of McMaster researchers has solved the problem of cumbersome, expensive and painfully slow water-testing by turning the process upside-down.

Instead of shipping water to the lab, they have created a way to take the lab to the water, putting potentially life-saving technology into the hands of everyday people. The team has reduced the sophisticated chemistry required for testing water safety to a simple pill, by adapting technology found in a dissolving breath strip. Want to know if a well is contaminated? Drop a pill in a vial of water and shake vigorously. If the color changes, there's the answer.

The development has the potential to dramatically boost access to quick and affordable testing around the world.

"We got the inspiration from the supermarket," says Carlos Filipe, a professor of chemical engineering who worked on the project.

The idea occurred to team member Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, a PhD student in Chemical Engineering who came across the breath strips while shopping and realized the same material used in the dissolving strips could have broader applications.

The technology is expected to have significant public health applications for testing water in remote areas and developing countries that lack testing infrastructure, for example. The researchers have now created a way to store precisely measured amounts of enzymes and other active agents in pills made from the same naturally occurring substance used in breath strips, putting lab-quality science within instant and easy reach of people who need quick answers to questions such as whether their water is safe.

"This is regular chemistry that we know works but is now in pill form," says John Brennan, director of McMaster's Biointerfaces Institute, where the work took place. "The user can be anybody in a village somewhere who can take a pill out of a bottle and drop it in water." The material, called pullulan, forms a solid when dry, and protects sensitive agents from oxygen and temperature changes that can render them useless within hours. Until now, such agents have had to be stored at extremely cold temperatures and shipped in vials packed in huge chunks of dry ice, at great cost and inconvenience. Using them has been awkward, bulky and often wasteful.

The new method, described in an article published online in the European chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, also holds promise for other applications, such as packaging that could change colour if food is spoiled.

"Can you modify packaging so it has a sensor to tell you if your chicken has gone off?" Brennan asks. "The reason that doesn't exist today is because there's no way you can keep these agents stable enough."

The new method allows the same materials to be stored virtually anywhere for months inside tiny pills that dissolve readily in liquid. The pills are inexpensive to produce and anyone can add them to well water, for an instant reading of pesticides, e. coli or metals, for example.

The new technology can easily be scaled up and find its way to market quickly, says Brennan. Pullulan is already approved for wide commercial use and is mass produced, which can speed the journey to market.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McMaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sana Jahanshahi-Anbuhi, Kevin Pennings, Vincent Leung, Meng Liu, Carmen Carrasquilla, Balamurali Kannan, Yingfu Li, Robert Pelton, John D. Brennan, Carlos D. M. Filipe. Pullulan Encapsulation of Labile Biomolecules to Give Stable Bioassay Tablets. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201403222

Cite This Page:

McMaster University. "Water test for the world: Simple pill brings lab to water to test for contamination." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140428120701.htm>.
McMaster University. (2014, April 28). Water test for the world: Simple pill brings lab to water to test for contamination. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 4, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140428120701.htm
McMaster University. "Water test for the world: Simple pill brings lab to water to test for contamination." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140428120701.htm (accessed March 4, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn Wednesday in war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing at least one miner, officials said. Graphic video of injured miners being treated in a Donetsk hospital. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) The Australian Museum has taken in its fourth-ever goblin shark, a rare fish with an electricity-sensing snout and &apos;alien-like&apos; jaw. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) takes a look. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chile's Villaricca Volcano Calm, Red Alert Remains

Chile's Villaricca Volcano Calm, Red Alert Remains

AFP (Mar. 4, 2015) A red alert continues in the area around southern Chile&apos;s Villarrica volcano, though activity dropped since its eruption overnight on Monday. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins