The Arsenix filter was developed by a team I was working with on the BioDesign Challenge, an international design and biomedical engineering competition. I worked as a visual and product designer with an interdisciplinary team of students.
In response to the lack of clean drinking water in California's Central Valley due to contamination by the agricultural industry, my team and I developed a concept for a "living" filter that uses cellulose grown by kombucha to react to contaminants with a color change and filter them.
To achieve this, we worked with the natural filtering abilities found in a strain of bacterial cellulose (Glucanacetobacter Xylinus), and enhanced it by engineering it to express an arsenic-chelating protein.
By engineering the cellulose to express the RFP gene (red fluorescent protein) in the presence of arsenic, we we able to make the filter glow red when water is unsafe to drink. The drastic change in the color of the filter is immediately apparent to consumers, altering them to contamination in their water supply.
The accompanying app allows users to self-report their water quality, learn about water injustice and health risks associated with contaminants, and reorder filters.
Working on this project with an interdisciplinary team introduced be to laboratory work and research methods.
John Dawson: MS in Bio-Physics, genetic design
Ayesha Anwer: BA in Biochemistry, laboratory specialist
Dana Ferguson: BA in Design, visual and product designer