Phage-Based Structural Color Sensors and Their Pattern Recognition Sensing System

The mammalian olfactory system provides great inspiration for the design of intelligent sensors. To this end, we have developed a bioinspired phage nanostructure-based color sensor array and a smartphone-based sensing network system. Using a M13 bacteriophage (phage) as a basic building block, we created structural color matrices that are composed of liquid-crystalline bundled nanofibers from self-assembled phages. The phages were engineered to express cross-responsive receptors on their major coat protein (pVIII), leading to rapid, detectable color changes upon exposure to various target chemicals, resulting in chemical- and concentration-dependent color fingerprints. Using these sensors, we have successfully detected 5–90% relative humidity with 0.2% sensitivity. In addition, after modification with aromatic receptors, we were able to distinguish between various structurally similar toxic chemicals including benzene, toluene, xylene, and aniline. Furthermore, we have developed a method of interpreting and disseminating results from these sensors using smartphones to establish a wireless system. Our phage-based sensor system has the potential to be very useful in improving national security and monitoring the environment and human health.