A Multiplex, Nanosensor Platform for the Real Time Monitoring of Food and Water-Borne Contaminants

A Multiplex, Nanosensor Platform for the Real Time Monitoring of Food and Water-Borne Contaminants
Michael S. Strano, Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering; Anthony J. Sinskey, Professor of Microbiology and Health Sciences & Technology

Period of performance: 

September 2015 to August 2017


The universal need for water and food safety is stimulating the development of new detection platforms that can identify a wide array of contaminants.  Specifically, real-time monitoring of contaminants has become a priority in meeting the need for clean water; similarly, the globalization of our food supply chains has driven the need for new detection platforms that can be employed at the point of consumption.

Food and water contaminants can be categorized into several classes, including bacterial pathogens, heavy metals, and allergens.  The scientific communities studying these different contaminants have developed distinct monitoring platforms and approaches, such that technologies that have emerged each address one problem, but not the others.  This project seeks a single integrated platform that can address all important food and water contaminants in a low cost, widely deployable nanosensor array.  Sensors of nanometer scale have clear advantages for such monitoring, including the ability to be massively multiplexed with low energy consumption and single molecule detection limits.  In this project, we propose to leverage new MIT technology to create a single, low-cost, portable, point-of-use platform for the measurement of three categories of food and water contaminants: bacteria, heavy metals, and allergens.  These categories were chosen because they involve orthogonal recognition mechanisms, and the integration of all three into a single platform is both enabling and highly efficient.  We will choose specific contaminants from each category for the purpose of developing the pilot platform, however, the integration of these three classes of contaminants into a single platform will allow us to address virtually any set of contaminants of importance for food and water security.