Battery & Electrification Technology

Bacterial Sensors Send Electricity as Contaminants Detected

Using living bioelectronic sensors, a team has engineered bacteria to quickly sense and report on the presence of a variety of contaminants. The team programmed cells to identify chemical invaders and report within minutes by releasing a detectable electrical current.

“I think it’s the most complex protein pathway for real-time signaling that has been built to date,” said Jonathan (Joff) Silberg , director of Rice’s Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology Ph.D. Program. “To put it simply, imagine a wire that directs electrons to flow from a cellular chemical to an electrode, but we’ve broken the wire in the middle. When the target molecule hits, it reconnects and electrifies the full pathway.”