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Algae May be First Alert to Water Supply Attack

KNOXVILLE, Tenn (AP) — Researchers from the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory may have found a way to use algae to protect America's water supplies from accidental contamination or terrorist attack.

The idea behind the system is to monitor the health of the algae in much the same way that miners once used canaries to test for the presence of gas in coal mines. Algae is present in all bodies of water, and basic chemical tests can detect even small changes in the algae's health that could indicate a chemical attack.

‘Unlike other biosensor technology where the sensors wear out, no such limitation is imposed here,’ said Dr. Eli Greenbaum, who worked with fellow researchers Charlene A. Sanders and Miguel Rodriguez Jr. to create the process, called AquaSentinel. ‘The algae is an integral part of the environment we're trying to protect.’ A full automated prototype system should be commercially available within two years.

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