The Environmental Sample Processor, known as "Lab in a Can," relies on intake valves to draw in seawater with a syringe, sends that water through a filter and then analyzes particles and underwater organisms. "The machine can do tests ranging from detecting microbes and toxins to basic DNA analysis," reports science correspondent Miles O'Brien for the National Science Foundation's* latest Science Nation piece.
Monitoring water quality is vital to make sure dangerous bacteria doesn't creep into our drinking water or overcome sewage treatment plants. With support from the National Science Foundation, engineers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute have developed the Environment Sample Processor (ESP), a "DNA lab in a can." The size of a trash can, it can be placed in the open ocean or at water treatment facilities to identify potentially harmful bacteria, algae, larvae and other microscopic organisms in the surrounding waters. It can monitor and send results back to the lab in real time to monitor water quality. Now, the engineers are modifying the ESP so it can go mobile, working from an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).