Researchers have genetically engineered a bacterium that can sniff out toxic chemicals at parts-per-billion concentrations. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s the level at which human health effects are often first seen, say the system’s developers, Michael Simpson of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Gary Sayler of the University of Tennessee. Unlike other bacterial sensors, which require large and expensive instrumentation, this device is small and potentially inexpensive. Bacteria engineered to detect specific chemicals are deposited on chips less than two millimeters long. Upon exposure to the target chemical, the bacteria glow with an intensity proportional to the concentration of the chemical. The sensors can detect environmental pollutants such as compounds that mimic estrogen, residue from jet fuel in ground water, and chemicals that indicate food spoilage. The researchers have built a working prototype and hope an upcoming alliance with Perkin-Elmer will bring the device to market within three years.
A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?
Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.
A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate
Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023
These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway
Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.