Public Lab Research note

MicrobeMeter - an innovative photometer for continuous measurement of microbial growth

by humanetechnologies | October 23, 2018 21:52 23 Oct 21:52 | #17363 | #17363

We are concerned about two disturbing trends in science today - increasing cost of conducting scientific research and confinement of research activities to small numbers of well-funded groups. We think that these trends are particularly damaging for biology, where there is still so much we don't understand and so many discoveries to be made.

We should be expanding the numbers of scientists in biology, rather than creating barriers for biological research and education. We want to enable biological research and data collection for communities of ordinary peoples (such as Public Lab), scientists, and students throughout the World!

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To this end, we started a new company to design and develop innovative, user-friendly, and affordable measurement equipment for the life sciences. Our company is unique in the sense that our products allow people to either purchase ready-made units from us or simply get our blueprints for free and build our devices by themselves. We believe that such equipment will allow do-it-yourself biological research and data collection for anyone from under-funded scientists to school students to innovators at heart.

MicrobeMeter is a high-resolution photometer with continuous measurement and wireless capabilities. It allows measuring of microbial growth dynamics, as used in many disciplines of life sciences, such as molecular biology, systems biology and synthetic biology. MicrobeMeter is made using 3D-printing and open-source single-board microcontroller technologies (Arduino), combined with a purpose-built electronic circuit. MicrobeMeter shows high performance compared against commercial bench-top spectrophotometers, that are routinely used to monitor microbial growth in laboratories. Thanks to the use of Arduino and 3D-printing, we could bring down the cost of parts required to make a MicrobeMeter to around £150, whereas the latter cost more than £1000. Additionally, MicrobeMeter provides unique and useful features that allow reliable long-term continuous measurements (> 400 hours) from both aerobic and anaerobic cell cultures. The resulting high-resolution growth data provides an invaluable source for estimating key kinetic parameters for microbial physiology modelling.

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This is how we measured the growth of baker's yeast using MicrobeMeter.

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Importance of completing an antibiotic prescription is demonstrated using MicrobeMeter. Single administration of antibiotic doses was not sufficient to kill all the bacteria (in this example we used Escherichia coli) and it could give rise to antibiotic resistance.

We are currently providing the blueprints of MicrobeMeter through our company websites for anyone to build and develop the device for free. We also aim to further improve MicrobeMeter with functionalities that will allow it to be used in under-funded laboratories, in schools, and even in homes.

Bringing MicrobeMeter to the market will set us on a road to achieve our dream of designing and developing a full suite of innovative research equipment for biological research and data collection. We think of these equipment as humane technologies -- they are made to foster the curiosity of people and give them knowledge from conducting scientific inquiries about their environment and body. As communities of people, scientists, and students use them, our chance of understanding biology and improving the World around us will increase.


Hi, thank you for posting! This looks like a really interesting project; thanks for sharing.

I wanted to ask for a clarification -- you mention that the project is open-source, but I went to download the plans, and saw a notice on that says:

Download for non-commercial Academic, Educational and Personal use. For commercial use, contact

The Open Source Hardware Definition allows for commercial use of open source hardware, so I think it's possible it means something slightly different from how you're using the term?

In any case, anything posted on this site has to be open source OR clearly marked otherwise, so we'd appreciate if you could confirm or just adjust the wording here to make it clear what you mean.

And for what it's worth, the benefits of fully open sourcing your work are incredible! Many projects shared in this way have grown enormously through contributed improvements. We totally understand if it's not for you, but we'd love it if you're planning to adopt a fully open license and join in the open source movement!

Thanks so much, and best of luck on your campaign!

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Hi @warren, thank you for the question and providing us the open-source hardware definition. After going through it, we agree that our MicrobeMeter does not comply with it. MicrobeMeter is open-source in the sense that the blueprints are available to download and all details of its design and application are explained here. With this information, anyone can build MicrobeMeter on their own.

Unfortunately, we are not able make MicrobeMeter as an open-source hardware due to the way it is licensed to our startup company. As we develop new products through this company, we will be able to consider to make them as open-source hardware.

Thank you very much for pointing this out to us, and apologies for any misunderstanding caused. We have now updated our Kickstarter page to reflect this distinction.

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Thanks for the clarification! Would you mind changing it on this page as well? I appreciate your sharing of the plans, even if you aren't able to fully open source it. Best of luck with your project! And no harm done!

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Hi @warren, I am sorry for the delayed response. Thanks much for your understanding. I have just modified the page to avoid any such confusion. Thank you.

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