Project Number: 983147






There is an overall requirement for a sensor which detects toxins in water as an early warning system which can be followed up with a more comprehensive analytical protocol. The sensor should be robust and relevant, and capable of rapid response time. The proposed sensor to be developed has the capability of sensing all biomembrane active compounds which includes many toxic categories.

The economic importance of such a sensing system is that it is cheap to implement and rapid to use. Such a preliminary screening system saves using a more expensive sophisticated analytical methodology such as GC-MS which is more time consuming and labour intensive.

The result of this study will be a robust toxicity sensor device, which can be used for rapid in situ measurements in the field. The device will be calibrated and tested. Preliminary sampling surveys of river waters, in a marine salt lake in South Croatia and on the Adriatic Coast will provide contouring levels of biomembrane active and toxic compounds in the water and how these levels relate to the season. These data will be correlated with those obtained from conventional analytical procedures.

The proposed sensor is based on the modification of membrane organisation. This idea is entirely new and biologically relevant. It relates directly to sensing interactions which alter the fluidity and mobility of phospholipid layers as model membranes. The technology was originally developed using a phospholipid monolayer coated mercury drop electrode (HMDE) [1]. The proposed work will transform the previous technology of the classical mercury electrode to silicon wafer based Hg/Pt microelectrode(s). This will give the system a lab-on-chip functionality. The invention has shown proof of principle and a patent has been filed [2].

In the proposed work we will develop a biomembrane based sensor in which a phospholipid (PL) layer is supported on a mercury-on-platinum (Hg/Pt) microelectrode array. This will provide a very sensitive but robust platform for the detection of a wide range of important biomolecules, toxins and pollutants.


Potential applications

This toxicity biosensor will have considerable application in:

  1. Water industry

  2. Pharmaceutical companies which need to measure the biomembrane activity of newly developed pharmaceuticals.

  3. Defence industry to analyse drinking water for toxic agents in the field.

  4. Health and safety and security industry. Health and Safety and security issues such as the detection of toxic gases, toxins in water and explosive vapours.

  5. Environmental and marine agencies also have an interest in the sensing system in its application for the in situ analysis of natural and marine waters for biomembrane active compounds. This is especially appropriate in the fresh water and marine environments where blooms of cyanobacteria and dinoflagelates respectively give rise to the production of toxic biomembrane active peptides. In addition the deliberate introduction of toxic compounds into the water supply can be detected.



2008 Biosensor PCT filed 2008 (Application No: PCT/GB2008/002591)


[1] A. Nelson, A. Benton 1986, Phospholipid monolayers at the mercury/water interface,J. Electroanal. Chem., 202, 253-70
[2] L.A.Nelson and Z. Coldrick UK patent filed 31/07/07, No 0714866