Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Navy Biosensors

PostedJune 13, 2019

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Lede: Oceans are full of invisible bacterial life that are highly attuned to their environment, so the Navy is trying to enlist them.

Randy Atkins: Sometimes there are things in the vast ocean that the Navy wants to sniff out. So Sarah Glaven, a research biologist at the Naval Research Laboratory, is using genetic engineering to train bacteria to detect even small traces of certain chemicals…

Sarah Glaven: …that may be signatures for something like an unmanned underwater vehicle or maybe a toxic chemical that could harm Navy divers.

Randy Atkins: Glaven envisions putting the bacteria in capsules that keep them from floating away, but allow contact with seawater, and attaching them to probes that patrol the ocean.

Sarah Glaven: We can tell the bacteria that if they see that signal that they should make an electrical current…

Randy Atkins: …that would alert the probe. Glavin says early lab tests are promising, but the bacteria’s first mission is probably years away. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.