Investors needed to fund new portable, affordable device
THE SANTA CLARA
January 8, 2014
A group of Santa Clara faculty and students has produced technology that can identify arsenic levels in water. They call it the “Lab-on-a-Chip.”
Extremely harmful to human health, arsenic has proven itself to be a difficult element to detect, as it is odorless and colorless. Its effects often take years to surface, and consequently, small, developing communities can drink from contaminated sources for years before realizing that their water is tainted.
Existing efforts to detect arsenic are very limited. Lab grade equipment available to detect this toxin, besides being expensive and cumbersome, can only be used by trained professionals.
Led by an interdisciplinary faculty staff comprised of Professors Ashley Kim, Shoba Krishnan, Silvia Figueira and Radha Basu of Santa Clara’s Frugal Innovation Lab, the team has produced several small devices to accomplish the difficult task.
Using several types of metals that react differently when placed in contaminated water, information about how much arsenic is present can be transmitted to cellphones. The data is then added to a database map that users can access to see previous discoveries of contaminated wells.
The students and faculty hope to provide their technology to non-governmental organizations and charities so that it will be in the hands of people working and living in areas directly affected by arsenic contamination.
The project began in 2011 as a collaboration between Ashley Kim, assistant professor of bioengineering, alumni Ben Demaree and Will Truong. Since then, the team has expanded to include Jessica VanderGeissen, Jasper Tan, Daniel Beyers, Brandon Young, Gregory Cusack, Nicholas Domek, Aditya and Lilly Tatka.
VanderGiessen, an engineering graduate student, took the product to Calcutta, India in the summer of 2013 and successfully tested 33 water sources.
“Now that we have proven that the technology really does work, we’re really looking towards commercialization,” explained VanderGiessen.
Recently, the group has gotten a little closer to that final goal.
On Nov. 5, chief information officers from many of the largest NGOs descended onto Santa Clara’s campus for part of a NetHope summit on technological innovation.
NetHope is a consortium of 42 international NGOs.
“After a three hour session of various technologies we shut down and (the CIOs) made a beeline to the Lab-on-a-Chip students,” said Basu. “It was really great. There was very good interest.”
Several of the seniors working on this project demonstrated the Lab-on-a-Chip technology to a very receptive crowd.
“I really felt a great sense of satisfaction,” said Tan, an engineer working on the project. “We had representatives from 20 NGOs crowded around our table applauding. There’s a real sense of accomplishment there.”
Contact Nicolas Sonnenburg at firstname.lastname@example.org , or call (408) 554-4852.