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Italian portable biosensor system for bacterial concentration measurement, helpful in food safety analysis

Country of Origin: Italy
Reference Number: TOIT20161114002
Publication Date: 14 November 2016

Summary

An Italian Microelectronics laboratory has developed a portable biosensor system to measure bacterial concentration directly on-site, by anyone, without microbiological and laboratory expertise. This allows to save costs and time. The laboratory seeks academic and industrial partners to work on market applications (under commercial agreement with technical assistance) and research cooperation and project funding (under research cooperation agreement).

Description

An Italian Microelectronics laboratory of an important University has a strong experience in design and development of sensors and biosensors for industrial applications, such as impedance biosensors for bacterial concentration detection, sensors for olive oil quality assessment, characterization of different materials by Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy as well as design of microcontroller-based embedded systems for sensing applications.

*Problem:
Bacterial contamination is a serious issue, in particular for the food industry where products must be guaranteed for quality and safety. Bacterial screening is usually carried out by the standard plate count technique, a reliable method that is however characterized by long response time (48 to 72 hours) and must be carried out in a laboratory by qualified personnel.
An alternative technique to measure bacterial concentration is Impedance Microbiology (IM) that estimates bacterial concentration by electrical measurements on the medium where bacteria grow. IM working principle is based on the measure of the electrical characteristics of the sample (i.e. impedance as well as its real and imaginary components). The sample is hosted in an incubation chamber featuring a temperature to favor bacterial growth and the electrical parameters are measured at time intervals of 5 minutes. The bacterial concentration is estimated thanks to the time measured electrical parameters requires to deviate from their baseline values. The concentration of particular bacterial strains can also be detected by diluting the sample with suitable selective media. High bacterial concentrations (i.e. ≥ 10^5 cfu/ml) can be detected with time response in the order of 2.5 hours. The technique can be used to check if the sample bacterial concentration is below the legal threshold as well as to test the microbial viability (such as in the case of cheese production).

*Solution
The Italian research group has developed a portable biosensor system, based on IM, that can measure bacterial concentration directly "in-situ" (on-site) and can be used by anyone: operators without microbiological qualifications and laboratory-related expertise. This allows several savings in costs and time.
The biosensor is composed of an incubation chamber -where the sample under test is stored- and two microcontroller based custom designed electronic boards to measure the sample electrical characteristics and to thermoregulate the incubation chamber. The system has been successfully tested with different types of samples such as ice-cream mixes, raw milk, beer and water.

The Italian laboratory is looking for academic as well as industrial partners. The role of industrial partners should be to help in the marketing of the proposed application as well as to investigate new potential applications. The lab is also interested in developing relationships with academic partners, for research cooperation and project funding.
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Advantages and Innovations

- The biosensor system can be used directly on-site by anyone (no microbiological and laboratory-related expertise are needed) to monitor the bacterial concentration of liquid and semi-liquid media
- This allows to save the costs and time to ship the samples to a laboratory for analysis and wait the response
- The time response is much quicker for the proposed biosensor than the standard Plate Count technique (3 -12 hours vs 48 - 72 hours).
- The laboratory can follow every step of the sensor design process: from the initial definition of working principles and characteristics of the sensor, to measurement tests by building experimental setup with benchtop instrumentation, to prototype production of microcontroller based electronic board (designed with Orcad software and produced with a PCB plotter Protomat S62).
- The laboratory features the following main professional equipment:
° bench-top instrumentation for sensor characterization (oscilloscopes, function generators, multimeters, spectrum analyzers, impedance analyzers etc.)
° a welding bench
° a thermal incubation chamber WTC Binder
° two 3D printers (Makerbot Replicator 2X and Makerbot Replicator Z18)
° a plotter for rapid PCB prototyping (Protomat S62 by LPKF)

Stage Of Development

Prototype available for demonstration

Requested partner

- Type of partner sought: Industry and Academia: the Italian laboratory is looking for academic as well as industrial partners.

- Specific area of activity of the partner: Whenever bacterial concentration measurement is needed, especially in (but not limited to) food safety.

- Task to be performed: the role of industrial partners should be to help in the marketing of the proposed application as well as to investigate new potential applications (under commercial agreement with technical assistance).
The lab is also interested in developing relationships with academic partners, their role should be research cooperation and project funding (under research cooperation agreement). Both agreement types could be discussed and applied to both partnerships after discussion.

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