Within the project "MTB Counter" an apparatus for counting and characterization of magnetotactic bacteria (MTB) will be developed. This work was initiated by LMU Munich, which is interested in determining the distribution of MTB in different regions of the South American coastal region. This research should help to better understand biogeochemical cycles on a global scale.

Such counting methods based on magnetism do not exist yet, due to the extremely small magnetic moment of MTB. This demands for ultrasensitive magnetometers and sub-mm distance between MTB and magnetometer at the same time. The demonstrator at Leibniz-IPHT combines optically pumped magnetometers and microfluidic devices. This novel combination of photonic and microsystems technologies is expected to bring a new quality to the characterization of the microbiological environment. For example, it will be possible for the first time to read out the internal orientation of the magnetosomes in the MTB (e.g. whether they are north- or south-seeking) or to distinguish between living and dead MTB.