iGEM Peshawar


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who is max?

We have developed MAX (Metal Alert Xystem) - an Arduino based bacterial-human interface device that enables your bacteria to ‘talk’ to you via text message, effectively reporting what it is sensing even if you are on the other side of the globe! For the first time in iGEM, we have equipped bacteria with a digital mode of communication, allowing it to relay real time data and opening up a myriad of possibilities for the future of bacterial human interfacing.

IGEM Reporters Assay Time
Fluoroprotein Plate reader 1 Hour
Chromoprotein Spectrophotometer 0.5 Hours
Luciferase Plate reader 1 Hour
Other Reporters
pH pH Meter, Strip 20-5 Minutes
Electric pulse Measurement Electrodes Instant

Why do we need MAX?

MAX has been designed to solve a very real problem in synthetic biology: the lack of reliable form of communication between engineered systems and the human scientist. Reporter expression be it color, fluorescence or pH, is analog and obtaining results is time consuming and tedious. Getting real time accurate data is almost impossible. When designing our fish, we realized that end-users would require a real time color detection and alert tool and this was further validated when we interviewed experts and surveyed public opinion. The table above lists the most commonly used reporters in iGEM as well as some uncommon ones. It also lists the methods used to assess the data from these and the time taken MAX eliminates the need for meticulous assays and expensive analytical equipment by reporting change as it happens. It addresses the need of the hour for cheaper, faster, accurate and easy to use technology that can integrate with biology. If synthetic biology is the future, we need tools that make it easier to use and understand. MAX lies at the very intersection of engineering, IT, and biology and brings them all together to enable our engineered biological systems to do something no bacteria has ever done before – text an accurate data report to a human.

How does MAX work?

MAX is equipped with a color sensing array connected to an Arduino Nano microcontroller with a GSM module through which it can detect color and intensity both with sufficient accuracy and is programmed to send out text alerts to report any change in either. It currently works in 2 modes:

  1. Sending out status reports at regularly scheduled intervals
  2. Sending out alert messages when a color change is detected

MAX can detect virtually any color in the visible spectrum, i.e. 700nm 400nm.

Currently MAX comes in a neat, ingenious, easy to use size where it can fit 50ml falcon tubes of culture one at a time in the color array tube. Color detection is instantaneous with detection to text alert time being less than 5 seconds.

Can MAX only do this?

Modularity being key, MAX can also be equipped to detect a variety of other kinds of reporter signals at intervals of your choice. The list is virtually endless, be it measuring fluorescence or pH, MAX has you covered. Not only that, it can be equipped and programmed to perform a variety of assays as well. While currently coming in an ingenious 50ml falcon format (the most popular format for bacterial culture), MAX can be tailored for assays of hundreds of tubes very easily.

It can also be adapted for animals and we are currently developing a version for our reporter fish. MAX has opened up a new dimension for measurement. From DNA to digital communication, bacterial-human interfacing is the future. Happy texting!

How To build your own MAX
Follow the protocol below to make your very own MAX.


To build your own MAX, you will need the following parts:

  1. TCS 3200 Color Sensor
  2. SIM800l or SIM900 (GSM Module
  3. 5050 RGB LED
  4. Arduino Nano
  5. LM7805 Voltage Regulator (not required if power supply is rated for 5V)
  6. Power supply with minimum output current of 1 Amp
  7. Switches
  8. Connector wires
  9. Vero board
  10. Header pins
  11. Falcon Tube
  12. Electrical tape


  1. Start by soldering Arduino, GSM module, wires of power supply, voltage regulator, switches and connector pins (for connecting the sensor and RGB LED) to the Vero board using the circuit diagram:
  2. Take the falcon tube and wrap electric tape around it, such that no light enters the falcon tube. This is necessary because in the presence of external light the sensor readings are not consistent.
  3. Attach the sensor and RGB led to the falcon tube near the cap in such a way that the RGB LED is directly in front of the sensor.
  4. Using connector wires, connect the pins of the RGB LED to the corresponding header pins on the Vero board.
  5. Using Connector wires, connect the pins of the Color sensor to the corresponding header pins on the Vero board.
  6. Upload the code to the Arduino using the provided USB cable.


  1. Close the switch SW1 and open the switch SW2.
  2. Connect the Arduino to the PC and run the Arduino IDE software.
  3. In the Arduino software open the serial monitor and check the RGB values and the corresponding color detection.

Note: While the Arduino is connected to the PC and the Switch SW1 closed DONOT close the Switch SW2 as there is a possibility that the USB port of the PC will be fried.

You can find the downloadable version of the protocol here.
Code for the Arduino is here.

You can also play around with new components and make MAX sense as many bio-reporters as it can, make sure you tell us what you did!