A biosensor can be used to detect an analyte via a biological element and then generate a physical signal. Biosensors are therefore predestined for use in a broad spectrum of areas, from biotechnology to environmental physics. We develop biosensors to detect microbial components, e.g. for analysis of pyrogens or monitoring of drinking water.

Biosensors – signals from biological reactions

A biosensor consists of a biological detection element and a physical sensor (transducer). The biological component may consist of an enzyme, an antibody, DNA, receptors, but also whole cells and tissue sections. After interaction of the substance to be tested with the biological component, initially a biological-chemical signal is produced, which is converted by the transducer into an electrical or optical signal. Biosensors are usually classified according to their underlying physical measurement principle. There are therefore electrochemical sensors, optical sensors and whole-cell biosensors.

Applications and developments

© Fraunhofer IOSB
AquaBioTox demonstrator.
Immustick - Test strip for pyrogen detection.
© Bernd Müller / Fraunhofer IGB
Immustick - Test strip for pyrogen detection.

The Molecular Cell Technology Group has many years of experience in the development of biosensors. The diverse fields of application of biosensors range from biotechnology to food technology, medical technology, electrochemistry and environmental analysis. We develop suitable biological sensors for your needs, from the selection of cells to the evaluation of the physical signal.


Toxin biosensors for monitoring drinking water

Because biosensors are well suited for controlling air, soil and water, they can make an important contribution to the detection and elimination of biological hazards. For example, both microbiological and mammalian whole-cell biosensors, which respond rapidly to the entry of toxic compounds, have been provided for online monitoring of drinking water piping systems (AquaBioTox, Toxikomb projects). After extensive screening, we selected two bacterial strains and a mammalian cell line, which – immobilized on a carrier material – were circulated with test fluid in small bioreactors.


ImmuStick – Test strip for pyrogen detection

With the ImmuStick we are developing a novel analysis system for pyrogens based on biosensor detection. With a classical, competitive immunoassay pyrogens are detected via immobilized receptors of the innate immune system (PRRs) in a test strip. These biosensors are also excellently suited for quality control of medical devices and pharmaceuticals which have to be shown to be free of pyrogens. In the field of hygiene (hospital to commercial kitchen), the use of such biosensors as rapid on-site analysis is also conceivable.

Reference projects

AquaBioTox – Biological sensors for online detection of toxic substances by fluorescence change


In the "AquaBioTox" project, solutions were developed for the continuous online monitoring of drinking water pipes. For this purpose, a whole-cell-based sensor concept with immobilized bacteria and mammalian cells was developed.

PHOIBE – Laser-optical detection of pathogens and toxins to protect drinking water from biological threats and pandemics

The joint project Phoibe aims at the realization of a modularly constructed functional demonstrator for the laboratory-independent automated in-line analysis of contaminated water. The goal is to identify bacterial and toxins by means of laser spectroscopy at high sensitivity without prior sample preparation in a lab.


Duration: October 2015 – September 2018

ResiWater – Innovative Secure Sensor Networks and Model-based Assessment Tools for Increased Resilience of Water Infrastructures

The French-German cooperative research project ResiWater aims to prepare water utilities for crisis management and enhance their resilience against major threats such as natural hazards, collapse of IT infrastructure or terrorist attacks. For this, novel sensors and secure sensor networks, detection methods and monitoring tools are to be developed at Fraunhofer IGB.

ImmuStick – Innate immune system on a test strip


With the ImmuStick we are developing an unconventional, novel detection system for pyrogens, which uses PRRs as biosensors, without the use of animal experiments or time-consuming and thus expensive blood tests.