QwikLite 200™

Just as canaries were used underground to warn miners of harmful gases in the air, certain species of plankton are now being used as bio-indicators of toxicity in water or soil samples. Under normal conditions, these plankton produce a visible blue-green light when agitated. In researching the predictability of this bioluminescence, Dr. David Lapota, a senior scientist with the Environmental Sciences and Applied Systems Branch of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, found that the bioluminescence was measurably affected by exposure to toxins. Realizing that plankton were much more sensitive than the shrimp and juvenile minnows used in traditional bioassays, Dr. Lapota invented the field-deployable bioluminescent bioassay system called QwikLite. The Navy licensed this technology to Assure Controls, Inc. of Carlsbad, California, in April 2005; and, with commercialization support from the Center for Commercialization of Advanced Technology, two Cooperative Research and Development Agreements and four more patents, it is now on the market as the QwikLite 200 TM. About the size of a briefcase, the unit includes a battery-operated instrument that interfaces with a handheld PDA, laptop or personal computer, and disposable test kits of packaged dinoflagellate plankton, which require no food or water changes and have a shelf life of several months. In addition to providing a more accurate measurement of toxicity, QwikLite is much less costly than traditional bioassays because it can be done in the field. It also produces results in as little as 24 hours, while traditional assays take days. With the QwikLite 200TM instrument, the test can be done onsite, the data collected automatically, and toxicity can be determined in as little as 24 hours for a fraction of the cost. Water is often said to be our most precious commodity. This technology offers the hope of saving billions of gallons of water in every part of the world through simple, affordable regular testing, ensuring that toxin levels are monitored, known and addressed through both cleanup and preventative measures. Internationally, the technology can be used to protect the military in the field, as well as help deliver clean water to citizens in areas such as Iraq
Award Year: 
Far West