Biosensors, Reporters and Algal Autonomous Vessels for Ocean Operation
As a result of multiple anthropogenic pressures there is a slow but steady degradation of the marine water quality, both chemically and biologically. One of the strategies of the EU for mitigating further degradation of the EU marine water quality is the effective detection and monitoring of chemical assaults, and of the well-being of marine living organisms. Biosensors are considered as an important tool to allow easier, real-time, in-situ, and costeffective yet highly reliable measurements.
The main goals of the BRAAVOO project are to develop three types of biosensors that can rapidly target a number of marine priority compounds or compound classes and can measure general toxicity:
i) nano-immunosensors, detecting molecular interactions between antibodies and chemical substrates.
ii) biosensors that consist of living bacteria that can be tuned to produce vivid colours in response to target chemicals.
iii) algal sensors that are sensitive to 'anything' in the water that causes toxicity.
The second major goal of the project is to integrate the three biosensor types into automated modules, which (i) can be deployed as handheld single-use instruments, e.g., on ships or by harbour authorities, (ii) will be integrated into a marine data buoy and (iii) an unmanned surveying vessel (USV) that will perform real-time on-site sampling, sample analysis and surveying. The biosensor units will be tested throughout the lifetime of the project and calibrated to state-of-the-art chemical analytics. This enhances the valorisation of intermediate project goals and developments. It will also allow iterative selection of the most promising development options before an actual autonomous
USV can be assembled and a prototype tested. In addition to the biosensors, the USV will also contain a number of 'off-the-shelf' physicochemical sensors, and will be equipped with the latest telemetry options to allow remote control and data communication. All three biosensor types will be specifically developed and extensively tested with a number of prime marine priority pollutants. BRAAVOO will concentrate on and demonstrate 'the proof of concept' of automated real-time and in-situ detection by the biosensors in the buoy and USV of two toxic compounds frequently encountered in harsh marine environments: oil pollution and algal toxins. The expected impact is an easier and rapid way of on-line detection of chemical assaults in marine water, and secondly, a 'democratization' of analytics from specialized laboratories to users.
BRAAVOO uses a combination of biological micro-, optical and electrical engineering to develop the two major parts of its programme. The biological engineering will optimize bacterial and algal sensors for new chemical target specificities, and will find solutions to maintain living cells within microfluidic systems. The microand optical engineering will design the 'package' for the cells and antibodies systems and include the optical detectors for their readout. The electrical engineers will focus on the connections between the systems and their integration into independent modules, and autonomous vessels. Finally, chemists and marine biologists will validate the measurements made by the biosensors in real-life mesocosm settings.