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Biosensors and Bioelectronics
Vol. 85, 20
16, Pages: 915–923

Rapid detection of microbial cell abundance in aquatic systems

Andrea M. Rocha, Quan Yuan, Dan M. Close, Kaela B. O’Dell, Julian L. Fortney, Jayne Wu, Terry C. Hazen

Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37830, USA.


The detection and quantification of naturally occurring microbial cellular densities is an essential component of environmental systems monitoring. While there are a number of commonly utilized approaches for monitoring microbial abundance, capacitance-based biosensors represent a promising approach because of their low-cost and label-free detection of microbial cells, but are not as well characterized as more traditional methods. Here, we investigate the applicability of enhanced alternating current electrokinetics (ACEK) capacitive sensing as a new application for rapidly detecting and quantifying microbial cellular densities in cultured and environmentally sourced aquatic samples. ACEK capacitive sensor performance was evaluated using two distinct and dynamic systems – the Great Australian Bight and groundwater from the Oak Ridge Reservation in Oak Ridge, TN. Results demonstrate that ACEK capacitance-based sensing can accurately determine microbial cell counts throughout cellular concentrations typically encountered in naturally occurring microbial communities (103−106 cells/mL). A linear relationship was observed between cellular density and capacitance change correlations, allowing a simple linear curve fitting equation to be used for determining microbial abundances in unknown samples. This work provides a foundation for understanding the limits of capacitance-based sensing in natural environmental samples and supports future efforts focusing on evaluating the robustness ACEK capacitance-based within aquatic environments.

Keywords: Biosensor; Interfacial capacitance; AC electrokinetics; Microbial abundance.

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