Detection of bacterial metabolism in lag-phase using impedance spectroscopy of agar-integrated 3D microelectrodes

Derrick Butler, Nishit Goel, Lindsey Goodnight, Srinivas Tadigadapa, Aida Ebrahimi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Traditional methods for detection of metabolically-active bacterial cells, while effective, require several days to complete. Development of sensitive electrical biosensors is highly desirable for rapid detection and counting of pathogens in food, water, or clinical samples. Herein, we develop a highly-sensitive non-Faradaic impedance sensor which detects metabolic activity of E. coli cells in a mere 1 μl of sample volume and without any sample filtration/purification. The three dimensional (3D) interdigitated electrodes (IDEs) along with self-assembled gold-nickel (Au-Ni) nanostructures significantly amplify the sensitivity by increasing the sensing area almost three-fold. The developed microsystem is integrated with an agar-based growth medium and monitors the metabolism of bacterial cells, enabling bacterial detection in approximately one hour after inoculation, i.e. in the lag-phase. Incorporation of a secondary agar layer as a biocompatible passivation layer protects the IDEs from potential Faradaic reactions and enhances sensitivity to modulation of the non-Faradaic impedance due to cellular metabolism. The resultant label-free sensor is capable of selective identification of metabolizing cells (vs. dead cells) across a wide linear range (10–1000 cells/μl). These results help pave the way for rapid antibacterial susceptibility testing at the point-of-need, which is currently a major challenge in healthcare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-276
Number of pages8
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
StatePublished - Mar 15 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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