More soldiers become ill or injured from disease and non-battle injuries than from combat, and providing good quality water supplies to the warfighter is a key element in preventing such injuries. Basic field water tests can detect only a few high priority threat chemicals, and comprehensive testing for additional chemicals can takes days or weeks. The ESB provides rapid toxicity identification for many industrial and agricultural chemicals in water. Rather than evaluating individual chemical constituents, the ESB system uses two individual biological-based sensors to identify toxic responses associated with the presence of chemicals: an electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) device that measures changes electrical characteristics of a layer of vertebrate cells grown on fluidic biochips, and a pesticide sensor (also known as the ACE™ Rapid Test for Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors, or ACE™ sensor) that measures enzyme inhibition caused primarily by carbamate and organophosphorus pesticides. By testing water with both the ACE™ and ECIS sensors, toxicity resulting from a wide range of chemicals can be identified, including unsuspected or unknown materials and chemical mixtures.
The ESB will become part of the Water Quality Analysis Set – Preventive Medicine that is now used for testing Army field drinking water supplies. The ESB is now in advanced development and is on-track for fielding in 2015.