Detection of Microbes in Ice Using Microfabricated Impedance Spectroscopy Sensors


During the growth of a polycrystalline ice lattice, microorganisms partition into veins, forming an ice vein network highly concentrated in salts and microbial cells. We used microfabricated electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) sensors to determine the effect of microorganisms on the electrochemical properties of ice. Solutions analyzed consisted of a 176 μS cm−1 conductivity solution, fluorescent beads, and Escherichia coli HB101-GFP to model biotic organisms. Impedance spectroscopy data were collected at −10 °C, −20 °C, and −25 °C within either ice veins or ice grains (i.e., no veins) spanning the sensors. After freezing, the fluorescent beads and E. coli were partitioned into the ice veins. The corresponding impedance data were discernibly different in the presence of ice veins and microbial impurities. The presence of microbial cells in ice veins was evident by decreased electrical characteristics (electrode polarization between electrode and ice matrix) relative to solid ice grains. Further, this electrochemical behavior was reversed in all bead-doped solutions, indicating that microbial processes influence sensor response. Linear mixed-effects models empirically corroborated the differences in polarization associated with the presence and absence of microbial cells in ice. We show that EIS has the potential to detect microbes in ice and differentiate between veins and solid grains.



microbes, ice, Microfabricated impedance, spectroscopy sensors


Kaiser-Jackson, L. B., Dieser, M., McGlennen, M., Parker, A. E., Foreman, C. M., & Warnat, S. (2023). Detection of Microbes in Ice Using Microfabricated Impedance Spectroscopy Sensors. ECS Sensors Plus, 2(4), 042801.
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