Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Bright ideas

LuminUltra's portable test kit

In the quest for pristine water, methods for measuring micro-organisms haven’t changed much for more than a century. It can take anywhere between 24 hours to over a month to receive accurate results…until now.

LuminUltra Technologies Ltd. of Fredericton, New Brunswick is changing all that. Their new, portable test kit yields accurate results from water testing in only minutes—and represents significant savings for a growing list of commercial, industrial and municipal clients on every continent.

The portable test kit identifies and measures the presence of all kinds of water-borne microorganisms and is a breakthrough not just for testing water that will be consumed, as in the case of municipal water systems, but also for industrial or manufacturing plants, where bacteria can decrease efficiency in operation or spoil the final product.

“There’s an old saying that, ‘If you do not measure it, you cannot control it,’” says Pat Whalen, president and CEO.

“And if you do not control micro-organisms in a timely way, you risk causing your process to fail.”

LuminUltra was launched in 2003 after 10 years of research. Their test is based on a natural process called luminescence—the production of light.

So, how does it work?

Adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP), a molecule found in all living cells, is extracted from micro-organisms and when ATP is exposed to luciferase (an enzyme found in fireflies), the reaction creates light.

The amount of light measured is directly proportional to the amount of ATP—and thus the amount of micro-organisms—in the sample.

Pat says that ACOA has been indispensable to LuminUltra’s growth and sustainability.

“In addition to its financial programs, we have received high-quality advice on how to do business both at home and abroad.”

As markets mature and product use develops, LuminUltra’s test kit may one day have humanitarian applications. It may also show promise for consumer use at home.

“Consumers today are very concerned with the quality of things around them and seeing results for themselves,” Pat says. “So it may be possible that in the long-term, this product could be used not only by municipalities and industry, but also in residential situations for people to test their water.”

And as word about this breakthrough technology spreads, the company foresees all kinds of future applications, guaranteeing that LuminUltra won’t be just a flicker in the dark.

Published November 25, 2013