It is the most basic human necessity. Without it, we would not survive. And yet, so many people in the world struggle to find it every day. Clean, safe water.
A world in which you could purchase little paper strips, and test the quality of your food and water, at home.
A world in which officials could test the safety of water at public beaches and immediately get the results, instead of waiting up to five days.
A world in which the Town of Walkerton could test its water supply by simply dipping a paper strip into a glass of water and be able to recognize the high levels of E.coli, before seven people died and more than 5,000 became ill.
Now imagine this technology existed.
What if it was easily accessible to everyone? What if we could share this technology with third-world countries, ensuring that people drink clean, safe water worldwide? Professor John Brennan believes it’s possible, and he’s determined to help us get there.
Brennan is the Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry and Biointerfaces at McMaster University, and his work involves the development of small paper-based devices that you can use to detect various chemicals, either in water or in food.
The science behind these strips – bioactive paper – is already here. Doctors have been using bioactive paper since the 1950s to test for glucose in urine.
Working on new applications, Brennan and his team have developed the technology to detect E.coli, listeria, pesticides, and more. His ultimate goal is to put this technology into the hands of everyday consumers, who can test their water at home and get results in just 30 minutes.
It’s a product that will close the gap between outbreak and detection – ultimately preventing illnesses and saving lives.