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Photoelectric Microbe Sensors (PEMS)


The use of sensors has increasingly become accepted as an innovative solution for a diverse range of functions and needs. The University of North Florida's Photoelectric Microbe Sensors, also known as PEMS, can accurately detect and identify microbes (both viruses and bacteria) in near real-time. UNF PEMS are cutting edge technology and their applications are numerous. Government agencies can have a more advanced way to ensure national security, the medical field can rapidly diagnose illnesses and microbial outbreaks, and the quality and consistency of manufacturing and agriculture goods can be carefully maintained.

UNF PEMS is a patent pending technology invented at the University of North Florida. The advantages of PEMS are that it can detect multiple microbes simultaneously in near real-time, including Sindbis virus (SIN), Porcine parvovirus (PPV), Murine adapted Influenza A virus, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Salmonella typhimurium (S. typhi), outputting the sensed data in multiple digital formats. UNF PEMS results in a dramatic reduction of time, labor, and cost needed to detect and identify microbes.


UNF sensor applications are varied and numerous. In addition to the potential uses listed below, come learn how UNF sensor technology can be tailored to meet your particular needs.


  • Detection of microbes (both bacteria and viruses) such as E-coli, salmonella, and Shiga toxins in food being processed at plants and farms. Potential to save billions spent on medical costs each year.
  • Reduction in lost revenue from outbreaks and scares of potential contaminations.


  • UNF PEMS can innovate the way diseases, viruses, and bacteria are detected. The CDC and Homeland Security would greatly benefit from the sensor's capabilities of detecting microbes within minutes of sample testing.
  • UNF PEMS does not need a person to analyze the data, and can report data wirelessly and be attached to a miniaturized device.
  • Potentially detect viruses such as Influenza A (H1N1) and MRSA, significantly reducing the time to sense the threat of pandemics.
  • Potential early detection of microbes or bio-warfare agents either in combat or in potential attacks on U.S. cities.
  • Restaurant and grocery store monitoring of refrigeration systems for bacterial growth and viruses.
  • Subway, airplane, cruise ship, and public area monitoring for health safety concerns.


  • Identification of viruses and bacteria, helping to control safety and health.
  • Improve the transportation of bulk goods and products from the manufacturing plant to the point of destination. PEMS sensors can monitor and identify products (produce, fish, meats, etc.) for damage through transport from viral infection or bacteria growth.


  • Innovative hand-held and remote devices for the detection of viruses and bacteria including MRSA, Influenza A (H1N1), Sindbis virus (SIN), Porcine parvovirus (PPV), Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Salmonella typhimurium (S. typhi).
  • Immediate diagnoses of doctor office, clinic, and emergency room patients for acute conditions.
  • Detection of viruses and bacteria in day care centers.

Invention Details

UNF photoelectric microbe sensor technology is a multi-functional sensor recognition platform that detects a very wide range of microbes with a single device. UNF PEMS uses interfacial photo-voltages from microbes (bacteria, virus, etc.) adhered to electrode surfaces by attachment factors specific to the targeted microbes. UNF PEMS sensing occurs when target microbes absorb to attachment factors (antibodies or other such material) that coat electrodes. This interaction yields specific interfacial photo-voltages in response to ultraviolet light flashes. To test for the presence of target microbes, PEMS electrodes can be immersed in aqueous solutions. PEMS electrodes have multiple independent channels each capable of detecting different microbes in near real-time using microprocessor-based embedded systems. UNF PEMS can also be operated remotely and autonomously. Microbes not previously sensed with PEMS can be added to those that can be sensed by identifying commercially available, appropriate attachment factors that provide exclusive recognition.

More Information: Interested? Find out more by contacting Rosalyn Gilbert at the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, e-mail or call (904) 620-2352.