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Real time monitoring of SEA contaminants by an autonomous Lab-on-a-chip biosensor

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Protecting our seafood from marine pollution

Researchers with the EU-funded SEA-ON-A-CHIP project have developed an early warning system that provides real-time analysis of marine waters in multi-stressor conditions.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment
Food and Natural Resources icon Food and Natural Resources

The chemical contamination of Europe’s maritime regions, which account for over 40 % of the EU’s GNP, poses an immense threat to our environment, our health (via the food chain) and to related industries such as fisheries. Seafood safety is dependent on the quality of seawater. As the vast majority of aquaculture sites are located in coastal areas, they are particularly vulnerable to pollutants released to the environment by anthropogenic or natural sources and by biotoxins from harmful algae blooms. Many of these contaminants are taken up by aquatic organisms, thus entering the food chain and ultimately affecting consumer health. Although a complex issue, one solution to mitigate the effect of marine pollution is the use of early warning systems that can provide extreme sensitivity, with exquisite selectivity. The EU-funded SEA-ON-A-CHIP project developed such a system. The result is a miniaturised, autonomous, remote and flexible immune-sensor platform based on a fully integrated array of micro/nano-electrodes and a microfluidic system in a ‘lab-on-a-chip’ configuration. Combined with electrochemical detection, the system provides real-time analysis of marine waters in multi-stressor conditions. A compact, autonomous solution The SEA-ON-A-CHIP device is a compact, autonomous multianalyte immune-sensor with impedimetric transduction. Its electrochemical immunosensor is integrated into an automated microfluidics system that is connected to a sample-pre-treatment chamber. It is within this chamber that the clean-up process and pre-concentration of the compounds that are to be measured is done using immune-recognition. The information is then sent on to the sensing step, which takes place in the lab-on-a-chip electrochemical immunosensor, with the signals being communicated to a remote-control centre. Each device can perform eight simultaneous measures in duplicates. Considering the harsh environments they work in, the devices can provide real-time autonomous measuring at least once per hour for up to one-month. The end-user can also simultaneously connect as many devices as needed to the same platform, resulting in a very flexible and inexpensive system. ‘Thanks to the use of microelectromechanical systems and micro-electrodes in flexible polymeric substrates, the cost of producing the devices has been significantly reduced,’ explains project coordinator Damia Barcelo. Benefiting aquaculture and beyond According to Barcelo, the many opportunities and benefits offered by SEA-ON-A-CHIP have been showcased to potential customers, and initial feedback has been very positive. ‘The system has proved beneficial for aquaculture facilities, where it provides rapid assessment of eight common contaminants from five groups of compounds that affect aquaculture production and those produced by the industry that have a negative impact on the environment and human health,’ says Barcelo. He goes on to explain that, ‘Although developed for the aquaculture industry, the SEA-ON-A-CHIP system is easily adaptable to other target compounds and situations, such as analysing contamination of coastal waters.’


SEA-ON-A-CHIP, aquaculture, maritime pollution, coastal contamination, autonomous measuring, food chain

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