Published: Wednesday 15 July 1998

In the recent years, scientists have employed diverse means to protect the environment, among which bioremediation has shown great potential as an effective method to clean up toxic wastes. But how do we know whether the genetically-modified bacteria that are used in this process are doing their job or not? Ask other bugs -- comes the solution from Michael L Simpson, a research engineer with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, USA. He recently fixed live bacteria onto silicon chips and used these weird hybrids as pollution sensors. The team used a microorganism that emits a bluish glow in the presence of certain pollutants. This glow is picked up by sensors on the chip which, then emits an electrical alarm.

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