Pollutants in the biosphere pose a major threat to most organisms. Our project
seeks their containment through detection and capture. Current technologies like
PTR-MS aren’t cost effective and have limited deployment. Luckily, our practical
alternative (gECO) bypasses these limitations, by harnessing the power of millions
of years of evolution, coupled with a few months of ingenious genetic engineering (different cassette for different substrates).
Inspired by control systems engineering, gECO utilizes positive feedback loops to
increase sensitivity and negative feedback loops to ensure stability, thereby
ensuring the detection and capture of various toxic substances. The co-culturing of
these engineered E. coli with naturally existing microbes (that can utilize these
noxious substances) ensures their consumption. The hardware integration is
deceptively simple: paper strips with LB and glycerol (in a particular ratio) house
the engineered E. coli. On contacting water, the cells activate expressing
chromoproteins in proportional measure to the external pollutant concentration.
Overall, the setup is lightweight, aesthetic, cost effective, ensures detection,
capture and consumption of various toxic substances.