Collaborative Project NANObeST

Nanoprobe based rapid analysis of drinking water in crisis situations

Current state

Drinking water is the most important food! The quality of our drinking water is subject to strict and frequent monitoring. In crisis situations, ranging from water main bursts to natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes, contamination with pathogens or hazardous substances cannot be excluded. The supply of drinking water in crisis situations is one of the most important tasks of relief organizations such as the THW. The analysis of bacteria requires complex and above all lengthy laboratory-based testing. Water samples must be cultured and incubated for at least 18 hours, some of them for several days. Only then can the contamination of the sample be determined on the basis of the growth of the colonies. In case of a disaster, this takes far too long to maintain general hygiene standards and prevent epidemics.



The aim of the BMBF-funded joint project “Nanosonden basierte Schnellanalytik von Trinkwasser in Krisensituationen (NANObeST)” [“Nanoprobe based rapid analysis of drinking water in crisis situations”] is to investigate, test and establish a mobile and field suited rapid analysis system for drinking water. The objective is to enable aid organizations like the THW to detect, determine and quantify microbial contaminations, the total bacterial count as well as toxins during their missions. Solely by means of a rapid analysis can protective measures be quickly initiated, so that safe drinking water can be supplied to the community.


Previous work

The preceding project "AquaNANO"  explored a novel, faster analytical method and demonstrated the principal feasibility as well as showing the great potential of the analysis approach. Pre-treated magnetic nanoprobes coated with special antibodies that selectively bind to pathogens are utilized for separating the pathogens from the drinking water and as markers for detection.


Mission scenarios

The THW and other aid organizations have to be prepared for various mission scenarios. In the field of drinking water supply, the main scenarios include the purification of raw water sources, quality control, hazard identification for helpers and prevention of the spread of diseases.


Research approach

Water samples, either of raw water sources or of drinking water quality, have to be analyzed for pathogens and toxins as quickly as possible. For this, magnetic immunodetection in conjunction with magnetic multiplex detection are used. The instruments are being developed according to the THW’s requirements.

Latest news

First digital workshop with volunteers of the THW to define the requirements was conducted by the THW (until 19.05.2020)

Second digital workshop between the project partners THW, Fraunhofer IME and IBI-3 was conducted and the final version of the requirements catalogue was completed (27.05.2020).

An article about the Project was published in gwf Wasser|Abwasser 06|20202.

In Planning

Consortium meeting in Aachen, 29.09.2020


Project partners



The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), with its approximately 80,000 volunteers and about 1800 full-time employees, provides technical support and aid in crisis situations in Germany and abroad. In order to be able to continue this work as effectively as possible, participation in national and international research projects in the fields of rescue services, disaster control and civil protection is now embedded in the THW-Law. An essential responsibility of the THW after large-scale emergencies is to supply the population with drinking water and the treatment of contaminated water, respectively. Therefore, the expertise from numerous missions of the Special Unit Drinking Water as well as the Rapid Deployment Unit Water Supply (SEEWA) is of particular importance to the project NANObeST.

Role in the project
The THW is the project coordinator for the NANObeST project. At the beginning of the project, the THW is responsible for the definition of the requirements for the drinking water analysis technology to be developed and for defining the mission scenarios they are based on. In the second half of the project, the THW conducts the evaluation of the development progress through field tests and exercises. The THW is also mainly responsible for public relations, networking within the research community and communicating the results of the project outside the community.

Angela Kaltenbach, PhD
Federal Agency for Technical Relief
Headquarters | Staff Unit | Strategy and Coordination, Research
Provinzialstraße 93
53127 Bonn
+49 228 940-1692


Fraunhofer IME

The Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME conducts applied life science from the molecule to the ecosystem and is a partner in for contract research in the fields of pharmaceuticals, medicine, chemistry, agriculture and environment and consumer protection. The overall goal of the research activities is the development and application of new technologies for the diagnosis and therapy of human and animal diseases as well as the protection of crops and food. In this context, the research group “Innovative Detection Technologies” investigates novel and customized analytical methods which are suitable, amongst other applications, for the rapid and reliable detection of pathogenic contamination in food. In recent years, an increasing number of methods based on the principle of magnetic immunodetection are utilized. This core competence of the Fraunhofer IME in the implementation of user-specific detection methods, but also the expertise in the production and application of customized antibodies is of utmost importance for the project NANObeST.   

Role in the project
Fraunhofer IME is mainly responsible for the development of customized detection approaches for the mission scenarios specified by the THW, including the determination of the total bacterial count, the detection of fecal contamination and the detection of hazardous substances. Furthermore, Fraunhofer IME will enhance the analysis speed, especially in relation to the mobile analysis device, in order to rapidly detect contamination e.g. in raw water sources.

Dr. Florian Schröper
Fraunhofer IME
Forckenbeckstr. 6
52074 Aachen
+49 241 6085-13012


Forschungszentrum Jülich, IBI-3

The Institute for Biological Information Processing – Bioelectronics (IBI-3) conducts research on functional connections between biological components and electronic elements and develops bioelectrical parts for information processing, for sensor technology and as control elements for biomedical devices. The research group “Magnetic Field Sensors” is investigating the measurement of magnetic fields of magnetic nanoparticles in order to use them as markers for the specific detection of biomolecules during magnetic immunodetection.   

Role in the project
The research of the IBI-3 focusses on multiplex magnetic detection for the simultaneous detection of different pathogens via magnetic particle differentiation, on optimizing the analytical method, on the nanoparticles, and on the magnetic preconcentration to increase sensitivity. Based on this, novel instruments for mobile and field laboratory usage are being developed and constructed, taking into account the requirements previously specified by the THW.

Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Krause
Institute of Biological Information Processing- Bioelectronics (IBI-3)
52428 Jülich
+49 2461 61-2955

BMBF Program

Research for civil security

Call for proposals: "Anwender - Innovativ: Forschung für die zivile Sicherheit II"


Project runtime

February 2020 - January 2022


Project partners

Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME, Aachen

Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), Bonn

Institute of Biological Information Processing (IBI-3), Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH              


Associated partners

DITABIS Digital Biomedical Imaging Systems AG, Pforzheim

Institut für Wasser- und Abwasseranalytik - IWA GmbH, Aachen

Project profile




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