Brussels, 10 May 2005
Scientists have developed new sensors to test for the presence of pesticides in water and other environmental samples that are more sensitive than any previous tests, thanks to funding provided by the EU.
The SAFEGUARD project (Sensor arrays for environmental, generic and routine detection of pesticides) received 1.23 million euro under the Quality of Life priority of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5). The initiative brought together seven partners from four European countries: the UK, France, Greece and Ireland.
The main focus of the project was the development of biosensors, based on specifically tailored enzymes known as cholinesterases - which are the target of many pesticides. As well as the biosensors themselves, the SAFEGUARD partners have also developed dedicated instrumentation and its associated software for the detection, quantification and monitoring of pesticide-related pollution.
'This project permits detection limits of pesticides such as Paraxon for environmental protection applications, down to concentrations that until now were unobtainable,' explains project coordinator Séamus Higson of Cranfield University in the UK.
Professor Higson reveals that the enzymes are produced using molecular biology techniques to be selectively responsive to the presence of pesticides in water and other samples at concentrations well below recommended acceptance levels. 'This work will provide a new tool for environmental protection purposes for use both in the field, as well as laboratory based determinations,' he added.
By combining the work of several different elements of the project, the partners have also been able to develop prototype laboratory instruments that incorporate the pesticide sensor arrays themselves, as well as dedicated systems for the 'de-convolution' of data. The project was rounded off with the definition of standard measuring techniques to be applied when using the sensor arrays.
For further information, please consult the following web addresses:
http:///www2.umist.ac.u k/material/researc h/sefp5/jeanette/Safe2.htm#Project