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What Is ATP and What Does It Do?

Many people know what ATP stands for, but do you know what it does? This blog demystifies this amazing energy carrier and explains why water professionals should care about it.

1.  What is ATP and what does it do?

ATP – or Adenosine Triphosphate – is the primary energy carrier in all living organisms on earth.  Microorganisms capture and store energy metabolized from food and light sources in the form of ATP.

When the cell requires energy, ATP is broken down through hydrolysis. The high energy bond is broken and a phosphoryl group is removed. The energy released from this process is used to drive various cellular processes. ATP is constantly formed and broken down as it participates in biological reactions and it is central to the health and growth of all life. Without it, cells could not transfer energy from one location to another, making it impossible for organisms to grow and reproduce!

2.  Why should I measure/care about it?

Since ATP is present in all living and active microbial cells, it is an excellent indicator of overall microbiological content in fluids or deposits. To measure it we turn to a well known example of bioluminescence; the tail of a firefly! Through a chemical reaction, ATP reacts with luciferase and light is produced. The amount of light can be quantified in a luminometer and the amount of ATP present can then be calculated. Because this reaction happens instantly, the amount of microbiological content can be quantified immediately.

Standard microbiological monitoring methods often require culturing microbes on media and waiting for them to reproduce and form visible colonies. It takes days or weeks to obtain results depending on the species, and these methods only capture <1% of the total population present.

In contrast, LuminUltra’s patented 2nd Generation ATP® Testing provides data to help you know what is happening in your system and represents a major upgrade over other microbiological tools. When combined with our myLuminUltra software, you gain a true total measurement of all microorganisms contained in your sample in just a few minutes.

Having rapid information allows you to take action at the earliest possible moment, saving time and money in the battle against microorganisms. By measuring ATP regularly, and being able to differentiate between cellular ATP inside active microorganisms and dissolved ATP released from dead cells, cause & effect relationships can be identified helping you solve microbiological challenges before it’s too late.

3.  What is the benefit to me?

Typical responses to microbiological “threats” (biocide treatments, chemical disinfectants, non-chemical disinfection, pasteurization, filtration, and so on) actually attack the total microbiological population. Therefore, ATP testing technology gives you the data you need to make informed decisions when it comes to microbiological threats in your system and allows you to confirm that your water management strategy is effective, all in the same shift.


Want to learn more?


Ashlee Donaher

Ashlee has a biology degree and is a recent graduate of the Masters in Chemical Engineering program. After many years of study, it’s no surprise that she is adept at simplifying complicated subject matter, and as a result is our go-to-gal for delivering webinars, product demos and training. Ashlee enjoys travelling which is a good thing in her current role at LuminUltra – having already visited 25 states. When she’s not trekking through a National Park, she can be found near the water; canoeing, kayaking or fishing.

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