micro Aqua

microAQUA: Universal microarrays for the evaluation of fresh-water quality based on detection of pathogens and their toxins


Monitoring the quality of drinking water is of paramount importance for public health. “Water is not a commercial product but a heritage that must be protected, defended and treated as such” (Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC). The threat of waterborne diseases in Europe will predictably increase in the future as the human population increases and as a result of globalization and migration from non-EU countries and of climate change. Development of efficient, sensitive, robust, rapid and inexpensive tests to monitor various aspects of water quality represents an essential milestone within the strategy for control and prevention of diseases caused by waterborne pathogens and by algal toxins. Traditional methods for the detection of waterborne pathogens, based on cultivation, biochemical characterisation and microscopic detection are laborious and time-consuming; molecular biological tools have now greatly enhanced our ability to investigate biodiversity by identifying species and to estimate gene flow and distribution of species in time and space. MicroAQUA aims to design and develop a universal microarray chip for the high-throughput detection in water of known and emerging pathogens (bacteria, viruses, protozoa and cyanobacteria) and to assess the water quality monitoring the presence of select bioindicators (i.e. diatoms). A chip able to detect cyanobacterial toxins will also be developed. These innovative molecular tools should be amenable to automation so that they could be deployed on moorings for routine semi-continuous monitoring of water quality. MicroAQUA also aims to identify cyanophages potentially capable of controlling and mitigating the periodical blooming of toxic cyanobacteria in drinking water reservoirs. Overall, these innovative and cost efficient technologies will reduce energy requirements and improve performance of water treatment, and allow rapid management response to new situations brought about by environmental (including climatic) changes.


Duration: 1/3/2011-30/11/2014

Program type: Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)

Involved Partners:



IMRA: Tumorassoziierte µRNA-Analytik

KMU-innovativ 8: Tumorassoziierte µRNA-Analytik


Using the example of breast cancer the functionality (prototype) of an integrated system for isothermal, multiparametric RNA analysis for clinicical diagnosis will be demonstrated. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNA molecules (19-24 nucleotides long), which regulate gene expression by binding at complementary messenger RNAs (mRNAs), thereby inhibiting the translation or initiating the degradation of mRNAs. A third of the genes encoding proteins are regulated by miRNAs, therefore miRNAs are playing a central role in the control of many biological processes such as development, cell proliferation, cell differentiation and apoptosis. In 2002 a correlation of miRNAs with cancer was described in chronic lymphocytic leukemia for the first time. Meanwhile, in many human tumors (CLL, lung, breast, pancreatic, thyroid and liver cancer) tumor-specific miRNA signatures associated with clinical-pathological and diagnostic important parameters were found. Due to the proven and growing clinical relevance the clinical diagnosis and primarily prediction are sustainable supported. Technically, the system combines two innovative on-chip components that enable a platform appropriate for any form of multi-parametric RNA analysis. For manufacturers of bioanalytical and diagnostic systems on a molecular basis, the heart of the project approaches the commercial potential as seen more and more important in the near future. Compared to traditional analytical methods the array-based approach for multi-parameter detection is more efficient with respect to time, sample consumption and costs per data point. The development of a cost-effective method for tumor analysis, based on the novel diagnostic method using miRNA has therefore a big new market potential in clinical diagnostics.

Duration: 1/7/2012-13/06/2015

Program type: Seventh Framework Programme (FP7)

Involved Partners:

SurfChem: Traceable Quantitative Surface Chemical Analsysis for Industrial Applications

The objectives of the JRP are to provide measurement standards and methods with traceability wherever it is practicable to do so for quantitative surface chemical analysis for industrial applications. This includes:

  1. The provision of new certified reference materials (CRMs) with known and stable surface chemistries as well as with defined thickness and lateral structure for instrument development and calibration as well as verification of industry-relevant surface chemical measurements.
  2. The provision of new fast non-destructive methods of quantitative surface chemical analysis for industrial in-line quality control. In particular, this will include the development of advanced techniques for real time, in-situ measurement of catalyst structure and activity on a localised scale to underpin the development of more efficient, selective and cost-effective catalysts.
  3. The provision of metrological methods including development of new CRMs to improve the capability and traceability of technologies widely used in industry for surface analysis such as electron and fluorescence spectroscopy, X-ray reflectrometry, electron probe microanalysis or ion mass spectrometry.

The research activities listed under objectives 1.) and 3.) are primarily addressed in Work Package (WP) 1 and 2. These WPs deal with reference material and method development for industrial problems of inorganic and organic surface analysis. Analytical methods addressed are photoelectron and Auger electron spectroscopy, electron probe micro analysis, X-ray reflectrometry and secondary ion mass spectrometery. WP3 is dedicated to the development of traceable fast non-destructive methods of quantitative surface chemical analysis for industrial in-line quality control with a focus on contamination on food and high end products. Methods applied in the related tasks are optical methods as IR and Raman, atmospheric pressure secondary ion mass spectroscopy as DESI and wettability testing methods (WCA) as well. By WP4 new advanced optical and SPM based techniques used for real time, in-situ measurement of catalyst structure and activity on a localised scale are specifically addressed.

Each work package is planned considering priority that meets documented industrial needs and that supports transfer into industry by cooperation with relevant companies as unfunded JRP-Partners and by standardization under ISO TC 201 ”Surface Chemical Analysis” and 202 “Microprobe Analysis”. Read more

Duration: October 2011 – September 2014

Program type: EURAMET

Involved Partners:

Rheines Wasser: The Double Challenge

Rheines Wasser: The Double Challenge


Professor Fath, a successful competitive long distance swimmer, has been preparing for the Rhine attempt intensively for the last year.But, as the name of the project, “Rheines Wasser”, makes clear, the sporting challenge is not actually the most important thing for him.Andreas Fath will be testing the Rhine all along the 1,231 metres of the river – in a way that has never been done before. Supported by a team of students from Furtwangen University and partners from scientific institutes and industry, he’ll be putting the river to the test. His goal? To raise awareness for the importance of water as a resource and the need for effective water protection.Rapid test results of the Rhine water samples will be presented by Andreas Fath and the project team on an ongoing basis during the swim. Detailed research results will be presented by the chemistry professor at the “7th Annual Hansgrohe Water Symposium”, hosted by Hansgrohe SE, the main sponsor of the project, on 13 November 2014 in Schiltach in the Black Forest.Together with his team of Furtwangen University students, partners and research institutes, Andreas Fath will be analysing the water of the Rhine by posing a variety of scientific questions. The water samples taken during the swim every day will be tested for industrial chemicals, hormones, antidepressants, sweeteners, antibiotics, painkillers, drugs, pathogens and microplastics, among other substances. The project team will also measure current speed, pH values, conductivity and the water temperature.

Daily field samples via flash tests
•    Nitrates
•    Lead
•    Phosphates
•    COD
•    Ammonia nitrogen
•    pH value

Sampling daily - Evaluation upon termination of project within 4-10 weeks
•    Microplastics (AWI/Helgoland)
•    Pathogens (SCIENION AG/Berlin)
•    Heavy metals (Wetsus/Leeuwarden)
•    Pharmaceuticals/Fertilizers (EAWAG/Zürich)
•    Fluorinated chemicals (TZW/ Karlsruhe)



Duration: 28/7/2014-24/8/2014

Das Taschentuchlabor: "Lab in a Hankie"

Taschentuchlabor: "The Lab in a Hankie"


The project aims at the development of new biosensors for the direct detection of pathogens without complicated purification steps. For this purpose, a new class of sensor-actor-molecules will be generated that integrate pathogen recognition and signalling structures for direct detection of analytes in a complex environment. Through the complete integration of all necessary processing steps on molecular level, a new generation in bioanalytics will be achieved. Today, lab on chip-devices are considered as the next generation in diagnostics. These systems are intended to reduce complex chemical analyses performed in laboratories to the size of a credit card which could easily be placed in a trouser pocket. But already research for the next generation of clinical diagnostics is being carried out: A molecular integrated analysis that can be spun into threads and used for the production of shirts or handkerchiefs - offering thus a "lab in a hankie". To achieve this, fourteen partners form science and industry focus on the development of new biosensors that can be used for direct detection of pathogens without complicated preparation steps. By these means, biochemical binding reactions should become visible and feasible for diagnostics. Due to the long tradition in the development of biosensors, the region Berlin-Brandenburg provides a solid basis for the design of autonomous biosensors. Through the association of fourteen partners from different fields of science and industry, profound knowledge from complex areas like host-pathogen interaction, signal generation with biomolecules and polymer chemistry are combined. The potential of a third generation of biosensors for early pathogen detection has also been recognised by the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and is supported by the innovation initiative for the new German Länder.


Duration: 1/10/2009 - 30/09/2014
Sponsored by: Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Involved Partners:


PESTIPLAT: Integrated Platform for Pesticides Detection


The platform for pesticides detection to be used in food security monitoring (fruits, vegetables, drinking water, milk etc.) and agriculture research laboratories will be a user friendly tool able to perform measurements in 10 minutes time, to diagnose the pesticide presence, to alert and to record data for monitoring and statistical purposes, addressing important issues within the food security. The project’s main objective consists in developing the platform for pesticides detection, including four identical modules each of them containing the following compounds: biosensor, temperature and pH sensors, microfluidic module, fluids delivery control, heating system, computer interface and data acquisition of the sensors network. PESTIPLAT will focus first on development of an amperometric microbiosensor for direct detection of organophosphoric pesticides using miniaturized electrodes, fabricated by using standard microtechnology processes like thin film metal deposition, micro or nanolithography and clean room facilities. The chemistry of deposited enzymatic layer (concentration, enzymatic activity measuring, deposition protocol), the immobilization technique for AChE, the fabrication technique and the electrical characteristics of the enzymatic sensor will be studied and will be optimised. Nanowire polyaniline thin layer will be deposited on working electrode and used as substrate for acetylcholinesterase immobilization in order to increase the sensor sensitivity. The high surface/volume ratio of the polyaniline will lead to a better conduction and improve essentially the sensor sensitivity. The second activity developed will be the microfluidic module hosting the biosensor, pH and temperature sensors. The microfluidic system allows the biochemistry reaction of all four modules, independently, leading at the biosensor activation, acetylcholinesterase reaction and inhibition, electrolyte removal and system washing and sample preparation. The fluids delivery will be provided, using a pumping system. The third activity will provide electrical connections, electronic modules, data processing and acquisition of the sensors network. Also, results will be disseminated and exploited, and the platform will be patented. The main result of the project will be a fully automatic platform for organophosphate pesticides detection at the stage of a prototype.

Duration: 1/11/2010 – 30/10/2013

Program type: MNT-ERA.NET

Involved Partners: