Harmonic 'signatures' of microorganisms

Biosens Bioelectron. 1994;9(3):231-42. doi: 10.1016/0956-5663(94)80126-6.


The frequency/amplitude effect of various microorganisms exposed to periodic (time varying) electric fields, when proximate to immersed electrodes, has been studied using a novel analytical instrument. The harmonic distribution, in complex signals caused by cells exposed to harmonic free waveforms and occupying part of the electrode/suspension interface volume, was shown to be almost entirely due to the change in the standing interfacial transfer function by the (dielectrically nonlinear) presence of cells. Thus, the characteristic interfacial non-linearity is viewed as variable, being uniquely modulated by the presence of particular cells in the interfacial region. Little can be attributed to bulk (far field) effects. The tendency for subtle (characteristic) signal distortion to occur as a function of particulate (cell or molecular) occupancy of the near electrode interfacial region under controlled current conditions leads to the method of sample characterisation by harmonic (Fourier) analysis. We report here, as a sequel to our original studies (Hutchings et al., 1993; Hutchings and Blake-Coleman, 1993), preliminary results of the harmonic analysis of microbial suspensions under controlled signal conditions using a three-electrode configuration. These data provide three-dimensional graphical representations producing harmonic 'surfaces' for various microorganisms. Thus, cell type differences are characterised by their 'harmonic signature'. The visual distinction provided by these 'surface' forming three-dimensional plots is striking and gives a convincing impression of the ability to identify and enumerate specific microorganisms by acquisition of cell-modulated electrode interfacial Fourier spectra.

MeSH terms

  • Candida / physiology*
  • Electrodes
  • Escherichia coli / physiology*
  • Fourier Analysis*
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*