Using life science technology to develop a portable bacteria detection unit.

Pall Bioluminescence Monitor

The Challenge

To develop a lightweight and easy to use device capable of directly measuring the number of harmful bacteria on food preparation surfaces. The GX in-house team used their knowledge of life science technology to devise a solution based on measuring the amount bioluminescence - light generated when reagents based on firefly extracts react with the ATP in the bacteria. The decision was taken to use photomultiplier technology to measure the level of bioluminescence, and for maximum sensitivity a photon-counting photomultiplier was chosen. However selecting a sensor of such extreme sensitivity added to the challenge of finding a way to completely exclude all external light sources.

The Solution

The design team at GX devised an innovative way to exclude the external light – a vacuum is generated under the instrument which pulls it firmly down onto the surface being measured, and the vacuum seal also forms a barrier which keeps out the external light. Having devised this solution to how this portable machine could take a direct measurement on a food preparation surface, the in-house team designed this portable instrument based on a low-cost microcontroller which controls the vacuum pump and photomultiplier, and also provides an intuitive user interface which displays the measurement result as a numerical RLU reading.

The Result

The PallCheck Rapid Microbiology System was the first of its type to be used in an approved protocol for microbiological applications in FDA and EMEA registered drug-manufacturing processes. It is widely used by food manufacturers as a cost-effective way to instantly monitor quality control methods and detect harmful bacteria.