Microbial potentiometric sensor: A new approach to longstanding challenges

Scott R. Burge, Kiril D. Hristovski, Russell G. Burge, David A. Hoffman, Daniel Saboe, Peng Fei Chao, Evan Taylor, Stephen S. Koenigsberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The underlying hypothesis of this study is that simple potentiometric measurements between sensing electrodes and a shared reference electrode - Microbial Potentiometric Sesnor (MPS) system - can be employed in a long-term, continuous mode of operation to resolve the spatial and temporal changes in environmental systems. To address the hypothesis, (1) a conceptual description of the MPS system and its postulated principle of operation are provided; (2) the MPS system performance is documented under controlled laboratory conditions; and (3) the capabilities of the MPS system are documented under quiescent and dynamic field condition. In a laboratory setting, the variability among different MPS signals was insignificant confirming the postulated high accuracy and reproducibility of the sensor performance. It also demonstrated statistically significant correlations with dissolved oxygen (DO) and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) sensors, while showing capabilities of operating under anoxic and anaerobic conditions. Regardless of their locations in the model wetland system, three MPS sensors functioned without interruption and cleaning for a period >2 years, and thus demonstrating long-term durability of the MPS technology. In real batch-wastewater treatment facility, the deployed MPS system signals were able to describe the organic carbon trends and correlate with each treatment phase in a cycle. Data reproducibility and reliability exceeded the expectations better describing the carbon treatment levels than the DO and ORP sensors (p < 4.4 × 10−162 vs phase adjusted p < 3.0 × 10−58). While MPS signals correlate with specific parameters that describe the local process or environments, it is more prudent to employ both the magnitude and pattern of a composite signal like the MPS signal describe the change to reflect any shift in the local environment. When compared to a baseline pattern, this change in signal magnitude and pattern reveals important information that can be employed to tailor and optimize any condition or process which involves microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number140528
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 10 2020


  • Biofilm
  • Long-term monitoring
  • Microbial potentiometric sensor
  • Real-time monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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