Extended space missions require that potable water be stored or recycled over periods of time that leave the water supply vulnerable to microbial contamination. Microbial colonies form as difficult-to-eradicate biofilms, contaminating the bulk water at unpredictable rates, and are impossible to quantify using standard grab sampling techniques. The proposed technology leverages microbial propensities for biofilm formation to concentrate the microbes on a stationary optical element. Optowares will utilize a proven combination of molecular fingerprinting with machine learning, with which they have previously demonstrated microbial speciation and an LOD of ≤100 CFU/mL for water contaminating species such as P. Aeruginosa. The system will be multiplexable, self-cleaning, automated, can run continuously without user input, and results may be accessed remotely.
A combination of water-excluding infrared spectroscopy and machine learning has the ability to quantifying and speciate a wide variety of sessile microbes. Biofilms are endemic and an unresolved foil to storage of water over long time periods. There is currently no technology able to sample and speciate biofilms with any quantitative accuracy, and Optowares’ technology will fill that gap for NASA applications from the ISS to extraplanetary missions.
Biofilms are central to petroleum degradation and microbially influenced corrosion, incurring roughly $17 billion/year of cost in the United States. Biofilms are implicated in ~20% of hospital-acquired infections, with no competing monitoring tool for hospital waste & supply plumbing systems. Pathogenic biofilms also directly limit the size and yield of fish farms for food and research purposes.