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What Lights Up Fireflies Can Also Keep Water Safe

The same chemical reaction that lights up fireflies on a warm summer night can also reveal microorganisms in water.

Fireflies glow when adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules react with the compound luciferin and the bioluminescent enzyme luciferase. LuminUltra’s 2nd Generation ATP testing solutions take that same chemical reaction and use it to show how many microbes there are in water.


Quantifying microbes

ATP is a molecule that helps show the presence of microorganisms. All living cells contain ATP and measuring it shows how many microbes are present in a water sample.

To measure ATP in water, a water sample is mixed with luciferase – a synthetic version of the same enzyme that’s present in fireflies. This creates a chemical reaction and the energy from this reaction generates light. The amount of light a sample produces is directly proportional to the amount of ATP in it. Less light means fewer microbes, while more light indicates a larger microbiological presence.


Measuring light

How much light is produced by a sample is measured using a device called a luminometer. Luminometers are proven and reliable scientific devices that have been around for decades.  They are used to quickly analyze water samples in the field, helping provide easily-interpreted answers to molecular questions.

Because the device measures light, one of the key parts of any luminometer is its detector –also known as a photomultiplier tube, or PMT. PMTs are very sensitive vacuum phototubes that can detect a range of types of light. LuminUltra’s PhotonMaster luminometer is rugged enough to use in the field, USB-powered and fully integrates with the LuminUltra Cloud analysis and interpretation platform.


A range of solutions

LuminUltra’s suite of products and services has grown exponentially over more than 16 years the company has been in operation. The company’s products and services initially focused on monitoring biomass in wastewater treatment, but now extend to solutions tailor-made for use across a range of types of water systems, including drinking water, manufacturing and, energy applications.

LuminUltra’s 2nd Generation ATP and DNA-based GeneCount® products and services work together to show how many microbes are in a water sample and to identify exactly which microorganisms are present, providing invaluable and enlightening data for any water system operator.

LuminUltra Team

Founded in 1995, LuminUltra is a global leader in applied molecular biology diagnostics, with solutions and services that deliver accurate and actionable feedback in bioprocessing, biofouling, and biosecurity applications. With operations in six countries, LuminUltra serves dozens of Fortune 500 customers across more than 100 countries. At the same time, LuminUltra fosters a culture of innovation and agility, working tirelessly to deliver more value to customers. In recent years it has been on an accelerated growth path, acquiring multiple companies after forming a partnership with XPV Water Partners.  

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