THEME #04

Bacteria and other microorganisms Murata Manufacturing provides support to your development of equipment that is capable of quick,
high-sensitivity testing for Inspection of Bacteria and other microorganisms.

  • We welcome partners

    We are seeking co-creation partners for the development of “rapid bacteria testing equipment using optical condensation system” for quick and high-sensitivity microbiological testing.

  • Utilized product

    Optical condensation system that uses the optical condensation technology for quick bacteria testing

MATCHING
POINT

  • ・Food/pharmaceutical manufacturers and related equipment makers that are wishing to employ the test method using rapid bacteria testing equipment in their factories
  • ・Food manufacturers
  • ・Industry groups involved in food sanitation testing
Bacteria and other microorganisms

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, people are becoming increasingly concerned about sanitation and safety.
In the food industry, bacteria testing is conducted at various facets of food processing for the purposes of preventing food poisoning, managing food sanitation, evaluating quality and safety, assessing food standards and the like. At the same time, globalization is spurring active transport of people and goods all over the world, including export and import of food. Amidst this trend, improving the efficiency of testing for germs is becoming a very important issue.
In the medical industry and clinical examination field, it is necessary to promptly identify bacteria and viruses that cause sickness and nosocomial infections. Therefore, the development of a method of testing for germs in a short time and with high sensitivity is needed.
In order to resolve those issues, Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (“Murata”) and Osaka Prefecture University jointly developed a high-efficiency, high-sensitivity bacteria testing system that employs optical condensation technology.

To expand practical applications of this bacteria testing system, Murata invites companies wishing to become our partners for the co-creation of optical condensation bacteria testing systems as an open innovation.

Microbiological testing conducted in the food market

Preventing food poisoning and ensuring food quality requires constant control of microorganisms such as bacteria that adhere to the food. However, microorganisms are invisible to the human eyes, so there is a risk of them multiplying and spreading the contamination with us not knowing. To prevent health hazards caused by microorganisms, it is vital to grasp the food conditions and their safety in real time by testing food/products for contamination and managing the sanitation of manufacturing processes and workers.

There are many items to check for testing for bacteria in food. Even the general items checked by a common food test are numerous as shown below, and each of them requires a different countermeasure. So, the people involved in the sanitation management are troubled by the time and cost of testing. As such, establishment of a quick and easy testing method is in high demanded.

Items checked by microbiological testing for food
General indicator microorganisms Common bacteria, Coliforms
Pathogenic bacteria Bacteria coliform, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, O157; H7, Listeria, Campylobacter
Viruses* Norovirus
* Note: Viruses cannot self-duplicate, and they rely on their host for metabolism. Therefore, they cannot be classified as living organisms in a strict sense. In biology, viruses are thought of “being in a gray area between living and nonliving”; however, in this article, they are regarded as microorganisms that are part of the ecosystem.
Source: Japanese Society of Microbial Ecology

Bacteria testing at medical and clinical sites

Bacteria testing is conducted at clinical sites for the purposes of identifying (detecting) the bacteria and other microorganisms that could cause diseases (infections) and determining which treatment and medicine would be most effective.
Microorganisms such as bacteria are all around us, and many bacteria live in our bodies. They can be categorized into non-pathogenic bacteria (resident flora) and pathogenic bacteria (disease-causing microbes).

At a clinical site, when a patient complains of a fever, coughing or diarrhea -- which are symptoms of infectious diseases such as respiratory tract infection, urinary tract infection, skin/soft tissue infection, meningitis, otorhinolaryngological infection, infectious endocarditis and intestinal infection -- bacteria testing is performed so that the doctor can diagnose if the symptom is caused by bacteria, what kind of treatment would be effective to fight the disease-causing bacteria and which medicine (antibacterial drug) to prescribe.

Issues of conventional bacteria testing

Culture test takes a long testing period

Conventionally, the culture test method has been used for bacteria testing, but this method takes about one to ten days to obtain the results. For example, determining the presence/absence of harmful germs like O157 in a food factory requires from several days to ten days. Bacteria testing conducted by a hospital or analysis laboratory for confirming an epidemic also takes several days to ten days. Therefore, reduction of the testing time is an important issue.

Advanced knowledge and skills are required

Bacteria testing using the culture method sometimes requires complex operations including medium preparation and sterilization treatment, so the test cannot be performed without the specialized knowledge or skills. To solve such issues, development of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA method) and method for determining the presence/absence of germs indirectly by detecting adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is a source of energy for living entities, is underway. However, there has been no means of inducing bacteria to the measuring site and detecting germs quickly with high sensitivity using compact equipment. Even if an optical tweezers system is used, it is difficult to quickly capture many cells since the optical tweezers’ detection range is about the same as the laser spot diameter of about several micrometers and such system is suitable for precision measurement of small numbers of cells.

Too large for easy transport

Conventional microbiological testing apparatuses have some disadvantages: they are large and cannot be transported easily to necessary places for roving testing. In the case of a small business site or store where large equipment cannot be used, it is necessary to outsource the testing to a third-party organization and it takes a long time to receive the test results.

Successful downsizing of optical condensation system through industry-academia collaboration

To resolve the issues related to microbiological testing, Murata’s miniaturization technology and the optical condensation technology of the Research Institute for Light-induced Acceleration System (RILACS) at Osaka Prefecture University were utilized for the development of a portable bacteria testing system that would achieve a significant reduction of the measuring time for bacteria testing.
Murata and RILACS combined their knowledge through the industry-academia collaboration and improved the structures of the optical system and substrate to successfully reduce the testing time and equipment size and increase the sensitivity.

Mechanism of the optical condensation system

The optical condensation system irradiates a laser beam toward a liquid sample containing microorganisms and condenses the sample using the convection caused by microbubbles and heat.
We modified the optical system and substrate to improve the microbubble generating efficiency and the effective range of convection, attaining a capture rate 1.8 times higher than that of a conventional large system. By irradiating the laser beam for 300 seconds from a single element, the system can trap 100,000 or more bacteria and minute particles.

Mechanism of the optical condensation system
Birds eye view
Structural diagram of optical condensation system

Advantages of optical condensation system

Testing time dramatically reduced to only about 90 seconds

By using the optical condensation technology for the detection of microobject aggregation and measurement of aggregation size (such as the area of aggregate), we reduced the testing time dramatically as compared to when the conventional culture method is used. While the conventional method takes 48 hours, our system completes the test in about 90 seconds.

Optical condensation realizes the germ count measurement in only several minutes without culturing

Y. Yamamoto, T. Iida*, S. Tokonami*, et al., Opt .Mater. Exp. 6,1280 (2016) ;
ACS Appl. Bio Mater 4, 1561 (2019).

Cost reduction as a side benefit

Use of our optical condensation system eliminates the need for the equipment for storing food or specimen to be tested. Thus, the cost of such equipment is saved.

Downsized to the size of a smartphone

A conventional optical condensation system is about the size of a suitcase (87 cm in length × 67 cm in width × 72 cm in thickness). We successfully reduced the dimensions to about the palm size (10 cm in length × 6 cm in width × 2 cm in thickness) for easy portability. With a size as small as a smartphone, the compact unit is extra easy to transport to various places for measurement.

Enhanced detection sensitivity

We are conducting development with the aim of achieving the lower-limit microbe detection level of 100 cells/mL.
We have also incorporated ingenuity in developing the light source, substrate and container in order to attain a specimen capacity of 1 mL or more.

Applications of optical condensation system

Our optical condensation system can not only shorten the time for bacteria testing, which is several weeks at food analysis laboratories and medical institutions, but also enable a diversity of applications such as for the prevention of bioterrorism attempts to release bacteria or viruses in airports, stations or other public areas, thanks to its small size and easy portability

  • Food factories, pharmaceutical factories, cosmetics factories
  • Medical institutions, clinics, analysis centers
  • Airports, museums, art galleries and other public areas

Benefits of partnership with Murata

Benefit 1
Ample key parts supply reserves
Murata keeps in-house stock of the key parts of the optical condensation bacteria testing system.
This provides the benefit of a one-stop service for the purchase of all necessary devices.
Benefit 2
A wealth of patents
Murata has applied for patents for reserving the rights to use the technologies necessary for resolving problems and issues in developing products. Developing a similar product in-house from the ground up requires immense efforts and huge costs, but working in collaboration with Murata can reduce both.
Benefit 3
Extensive manufacturing experience
When developing a measuring apparatus in collaboration, it is necessary to construct and verify the manufacturing system. Commercialization of a product requires the development of many parts (modules and others). Murata has created numerous solutions since it was founded as a manufacturing company, so you can draw on Murata’s accumulated knowledge and knowhow.
Benefit 4
Easy acquisition of parts and modules
Murata supplies many related products to the market, so it can provide the devices you need from our existing product lineup in many cases. This eliminates the need to develop new devices or to seek new parts suppliers and enables you to obtain necessary parts and modules easily.
Developers of the optical condensation system

Introduction of developers of the optical condensation system

Minato MIRAI Innovation Center, Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
Tsutomu Yamasaki, Hirohito Washida

The development of our optical condensation system was inspired by the press release on the research on optical condensation substrate announced by RILACS at Osaka Prefecture University. We had an opportunity to exchange opinions concerning the research for the development of an optical system with the aims of improving the efficiency of optical condensation detection of microorganisms and downsizing the devices.

The optical sensor technology cultivated by Murata could be utilized to downsize the optical condensation system’s optical lens for irradiating the laser beam efficiently to capture bacteria and the like, and this technology worked well with the world-leading, original optical condensation technology developed by RILACS at Osaka Prefecture University. Based on the notion that combining the knowledge of the two organizations would enable us to propose a totally new bio-detection method, we launched a joint research project. Leveraging the industry-academia knowledge collaboration, we jointly resolved issues toward the commercialization of a product with excellent convenience.

We’d like to deploy the optical condensation technology for the testing of food and medical equipment to further promote the application of our technology in the markets where it is needed. As consumers, we have a serious interest in food sanitation; however, we feel somewhat frustrated by the fact that when purchasing food in a store, we have to rely on the information provided by the store because we have no other means to check the safety of the food.

We hope that food producers/processors, pharmaceutical manufacturers and food/pharmaceutical analysis equipment makers will utilize the portable optical condensation system developed jointly by Murata and Osaka Prefecture University to solve their issues.

Inquiries

Murata Manufacturing is looking for research institutions, companies, and other organizations who are in the relentless pursuit of innovation and interested in turning ideas into unique solutions that could quite possibly shape the future of electronics and our global society.