NUS engineers invent smartphone device that detects harmful algae in 15 minutes

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Newswise — A team of engineers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has developed a highly sensitive system that uses a smartphone to rapidly detect the presence of toxin-producing algae in water within 15 minutes. This invention can generate test results on-site, and findings can be reported in real-time using the smartphone’s wireless communications capabilities.

This technological breakthrough could play a big role in preventing the spread of harmful microorganisms in aquatic environments, which could threaten global public health and cause environmental problems.

The NUS team, led by Assistant Professor Sungwoo Bae from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the NUS Faculty of Engineering, first published the results online in scientific journal Harmful Algae on 25 July 2019.

Current challenges of water quality monitoring

A sudden surge in the volume of algae and their associated toxins in lakes, ponds, rivers, and coastal waters can adversely affect water quality, and in turn, may have unfavourable effects on human health, aquatic ecosystems, and water supply. For instance, in 2015, an algae bloom wiped out more than 500 tonnes of fish in Singapore, and caused some fish farmers to lose millions of dollars.

Conventional methods of algae detection and analysis are time consuming, and require specialised and costly equipment, as well as skilled operators t....

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