Engineering a solution to dirty water
One of the challenges is that bacteria from rivers can flow into groundwater sources, polluting what may have been potable drinking water.
Current methods of testing water safety can be expensive and time consuming.
Then they have to test the samples to determine which types of bacteria are present.
Working with fellow doctoral student Ran Ran and undergraduate student Derek Tran, Sun is developing a new method that’s faster, easier to use, and portable.
Traditionally, in order for scientists to measure what types of bacteria are present in water, they push the water sample through a column of soil or sand that’s native to the riverbed where the sample came from.
However, researchers find that some bacteria will squeeze through the soil column and make it to the other side.
Since it’s not adhering to the soil or sand, it may hitch a ride on the river current all the way into a town’s source of drinking water and make people sick.
While the traditional strategy for measuring bacteria works, Sun knew he could make it more efficient.
Instead of using a soil column to push water samples through, his method uses a microchannel.
To make this system portable, Sun knew he wanted the microscope to be able to connect with a cellphone.