Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Kailey Schneid makes this connection in Harbin, China. This current event was reported in Microfluidics for Cell and Other Organisms, on January 14th, 2019, under the title, Bacterial Concentration Detection using a PCB-based Contactless Conductivity Sensor, by Xiao-Yan Zhang, Zhe-Yu Li, Yu Zhang, Xiao-Qian Zang, Kosei Ueno, Hiroaki Misawa, and Kai Sun. The PCB acronym stands for printed circuit board. It can be ensured this is not, “fake news,” when looking to the article, “Bacterial Detection & Identification Using Electrochemical Sensors,” published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. It is validated here that bacteria detection can be done with a variety of electrochemical sensors (Halford, 2013).

This article demonstrates PCB’s ability to be utilized in bacterial concentration detection. Bacteria concentrations are extremely notable when looking at WRE, particularly with regard to wastewater engineering. Bacteria populations are indicators of water quality. This approach allows for improved speed, minimized human error, and reduced cost. Efficiency is important when seeking methods of distributing safe water to a megacity like Harbin, China. This technology can maintain bacterial safety of the water supply to millions. This article is looking at implementation in the medical field, specifically E. coli concentrations. This is important news for the Water Resources Engineering world because it potentially provides an improved method for counting bacteria. However, we know that PCB’s are carcinogenic and take ample time to be removed from the environment. Xiao-Yan’s article fails to address the impacts that using PCB’s may impose upon disposal.

Environmental, societal, and economic issues begin to intertwine when looking deep enough. Combating the harm being done to our planet every day is needed now more than ever. Action needs to be implemented at much faster rates. Clean, fresh water is our most precious resource; it has been said that drinkable water is becoming the new oil in terms of scarcity. This technology can enable processing of bacteria colonies in water to be handled: more rapidly, at a lower price, and with less error. Environmentally, if the issue of PCB disposal was addressed, this method of bacteria concentration detection would be advantageous in WRE. It would not be easy to educate the importance of monitoring bacteria concentrations to the masses. Societally it is trendy to care about the environment. Unfortunately, regarding mass majority, the appeal is about appearance and stops at action. A cultural shift to conscious consuming would deviate from the current norm, moving towards causing minimal harm to the planet. Consciousness to what one is buying would have tremendous influence over which companies become powerful. Companies with power are capable of making change. Convenience and price are often what companies and consumers are concerned with. This method of counting bacteria populations is cheaper than standard apparatuses. Lower cost, higher speed, and efficiency are appealing and would allow for more applications of treatment- making it economically viable. Society then benefits with an increase in water supply; not that an average American would expect anything but a constant supply of clean water. PCB-based contactless bacteria detection would be beneficial in providing a cheaper, faster, more accurate source for clean water. Eight environmental pollutants can be detected with the swift, eco-friendly analytical method of capillary electrophoresis with capacitively coupled contactless conductivity detection (C4D). This was tested on seawater containing biogenic amines. (Gubaartallah, 2018). These biogenic amines could lead to an increase in nitrogen contents, promoting eutrophication and dead zones. Being able to identify and treat these sources quickly, scrupulously, and cost effectively is impressive. There is ample need for clean drinking water, and quantifying bacteria populations plays a large role. Gubaartallah’s article demonstrates similar processes’ done to detect biogenic amines in seawater. Figure 1A provides a visual of the PCB-based C4D device. How to handle disposal of the PCB’s would cement the process in Xiao-Yan’s article as sufficient for use in WRE.



Gubartallah, E. A., Makahleh, A., Quirino, J. P., & Saad, B. (2018). Determination of Biogenic Amines in Seawater Using Capillary Electrophoresis with Capacitively Coupled Contactless Conductivity Detection. Molecules, 23(5), 1112. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules23051112

Halford, C., Gau, V., Churchill, B. M., & Haake, D. A. (2013). Bacterial Detection & Identification Using Electrochemical Sensors. Journal of Visualized Experiments : JoVE, (74). https://doi.org/10.3791/4282

Zhang, X.-Y., Li, Z.-Y., Zhang, Y., Zang, X.-Q., Ueno, K., Misawa, H., & Sun, K. (2019). Bacterial Concentration Detection using a PCB-based Contactless Conductivity Sensor. Micromachines, 10(1), 55. https://doi.org/10.3390/mi10010055