One focus of my research group’s efforts over the past 10 years has been collaborative R&D with small and start-up companies. They often have some very interesting ideas and needs, but lack the facilities and technical team to do the work in-house. So this is a perfect opportunity for us to help them out with creating new businesses and for my students to get some “real-world” research experience with commercialization projects.
One major effort has been in the development of nanotechnology for rapid water quality testing, in particular for bacterial contamination. Traditional laboratory methods require 3 to 7 days to complete, which is a rather long time to wait if you’re concerned about your water quality. Through our collaborative R&D projects, we’ve developed a test method that can give an answer in a few minutes. This rapid feedback allows people to make informed decisions about what to do next, whether to treat the water further, or send samples to a lab for more extensive testing, etc.
One recent development is the creation of a more automated, smart-phone based system that’s suitable for regular consumer use. A prototype model is shown in the photograph. We’ve been testing the prototype devices with our nanotechnology-based reagent (which goes into the test tube), and doing validation and calibration work. Everything is looking good and everyone has been pleased with the results. It’s reliably and quickly detecting microbial contamination in our water samples, and there are some other water tests under development that will be able to use the same platform.
To get to the next stage, which is production of the first batch of devices for sale, the company has just launched a Kickstarter campaign. Have a look at their Kickstarter website to see much more information about the technology and where they are headed.