Preparation and Application of a New Bacterial Biosensor for the Presumptive Detection of Gunshot Residue

J Vis Exp. 2019 May 9;(147). doi: 10.3791/59471.


MicRoboCop is a biosensor that has been designed for a unique application in forensic chemistry. MicRoboCop is a system made up of three devices that, when used together, can indicate the presence of gunshot residue (GSR) by producing a fluorescence signal in the presence of three key analytes (antimony, lead, and organic components of GSR). The protocol describes the synthesis of the biosensors using Escherichia coli (E. coli), and the analytical chemistry methods used to evaluate the selectivity and sensitivity of the sensors. The functioning of the system is demonstrated by using GSR collected from the inside of a spent cartridge casing. Once prepared, the biosensors can be stored until needed and can be used as a test for these key analytes. A positive response from all three analytes provides a presumptive positive test for GSR, while each individual device has applications for detecting the analytes in other samples (e.g., a detector for lead contamination in drinking water). The main limitation of the system is the time required for a positive signal; future work may involve studying different organisms to optimize the response time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Antimony / analysis
  • Barium / analysis
  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Firearms*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Barium
  • Antimony