Handheld contaminant sensor wins Jack Rosen Grand Prize

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Four judges standing with three students holding certificates and smiling

Imagine having a lab to detect dangerous contaminants like Escherichia coli (E. Coli) right in the palm of your hand. That’s the idea behind QuantWave, a low-cost, portable device that integrates microfluidic technology with microwave circuitry to test food and water for potentially deadly pathogens.

The team walked away with top honours at last night’s Jack Rosen Memorial Award pitch competition, after impressing judges with their well-prepared presentation and thorough business case. Gurkan Yesiloz , a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering, credits the interdisciplinary nature of their team, which includes Masters of Climate Change student Yi Hong, Civil Engineering student Alex Chen, and Earth Sciences student Luqi Cui.

Using QuantWave’s droplet microfluidic system, food producers will be able to detect outbreaks and take preventative action much earlier compared to traditional detection methods. Results that normally take up to 5 days, will be readily available in 5 minutes. The student entrepreneurs say quicker detection could prevent serious outbreaks like the tainted water crisis in Walkerton, Ontario that made 2,300 residents sick and claimed seven lives.

Right now the team is focussed on E. Coli but say QuantWave technology can be applied to detect other forms of pathogens as well. “We’ve already done the hard part,” Yesiloz says. “The device is working. Making different applications is now much easier.”

Yesiloz and his team have already developed a working prototype and are currently conducting market research and further testing. They hope to target food processors, the pharmaceutical industry, and even households, making food and drinking water safer across Canada and around the world.

The QuantWave team was awarded the $2000 Grand Prize by a panel of esteemed judges, which included: Greenhouse Director and SERS graduate Tania Del Matto; Chief Client Officer at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, Colleen Moorehead; Rob Theodosiou, a Geography alumnus and President of Abe Erb Brewing Co. & Settlement Co.; and Faculty of Environment Dean, Jean Andrey.

Line up of smiling students holding certificatesA team of first-year planning students secured second place with eCycle, an idea that encourages active transportation and reduces related CO2 emissions with power-producing bike pedals. Teammates Lois Leung, Miila Tuju, Mark Kim, and Abu-Obaid came up with the concept for removable, rechargeable bike pedals that feature a generator to store power that can later be used to charge devices through a USB port.

Woman handing certificate to young man, smiling

Lasts night’s third place winner was Eggplantr, an idea by fourth-year planning student Michael Widerman to reduce unsustainable food transportation by promoting easy urban agriculture. Eggplantr combines an online tool and a unique growing product. Users enter information to receive a custom garden layouts based on their space, climate and food preferences. Eggplantr then sends them a biodegradable, seeded weed barrier they can simply roll out over their garden space.

Large group shot of students and judges

The Jack Rosen Memorial Award for Environmental Innovation was created in 2008 to honor the memory of Jack Rosen, a local businessman and recycling pioneer who helped launch the world’s first blue box program. The award seeks to inspire and reward students who think “outside the box” in creating innovative solutions to prevent, mitigate or solve environmental problems. 

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