On the spot technology for measuring pyrethroid surface residue

On-the-spot measurement technology to determine whether pyrethroid residues on interior aircraft surfaces are high enough to kill mosquitoes and other insects.

Status: The funding round closed on 30 November 2016. Grant applications are no longer being accepted.


Aircraft cabins and holds are known means of transport for hitchhiker pests and particularly mosquitoes. For this reason, Australia requires aircraft arriving from overseas to be ‘disinsected’ with pyrethroid pesticides before their arrival to prevent the escape and subsequent establishment of exotic mosquitoes and other insects in the country. This is particularly important in the case of exotic mosquitoes that are known vectors of serious human diseases such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika virus disease. Australia is largely free of significant exotic disease vectoring mosquitoes such as the dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and free of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and would like to maintain this status.

In order to prevent the introduction of exotic mosquito vectors to Australia, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) as the lead agency for border biosecurity measures administers ‘disinsection’ arrangements for all aircraft arriving from overseas at Australian international airports.  The purpose of these measures is to ensure that pyrethroid residues on interior aircraft surfaces fulfil World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and are high enough to kill mosquitoes and other insects.

As a pilot, the DAWR has trialled the verification of minimum pesticide residue levels via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test kits. While those tests provided quantitative results, they are time-consuming and costly in addition to requiring specialist laboratory staff for testing and not providing timely results that would enable the taking of remedial action in case of the detection of sub-threshold concentrations of pesticide. High pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), the current gold standard for residue testing, was not trialled because of its even higher cost and greater time delay before results become available and the need to engage external laboratories for the testing.

For this reason, the DAWR has been looking for alternative technology that would deliver on-the-spot results, could be used by its inspection staff and would allow quantitative measurement of residue levels sufficiently accurately to determine compliance with minimum residue requirements.

Watch the BRII challenge 1: On-the-spot technology for measuring pyrethroid surface residue video.

What criteria does the solution need to fulfil?

The solution should permit quantitative measurement of residual and knock-down pyrethroids on interior aircraft surfaces. The final technological solution should ideally fulfil the following requirements:

  • Be a handheld device that can be used in a point-and-shoot fashion
  • Be easy to use by a wide range of staff without much specialist training
  • Lead to an almost instant display of the result of a sampling
  • Be able to provide repeatable quantitative measurements that allow an accurate determination of compliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) specified minimum residue level of 0.2 g/m2 of permethrin on a variety of internal aircraft surfaces (primarily plastic, but possibly also cloth/carpet, glass, metal)
  • Be able to separately detect and quantitatively determine other pyrethroid residues on the same surfaces
  • Have the ability to be re-calibrated and set up to measure compounds of insecticide classes other than pyrethroids
  • Be equipped with a display and software that allows the storage and later download of obtained readings and the calculation of summary statistics (e.g. mean with coefficient of variation or percent of readings complying with requirements).

What are the deliverables?

Deliverables at the end of the proof of concept phase would be:

  • A prototype that has been lab-tested for range and accuracy of measurements of at least one pyrethroid on one type of interior aircraft surface
  • Accompanying information on effective range and accuracy of measurements by the device of at least one pyrethroid on one type of interior aircraft surface (plastic mouldings)
  • Assessment of feasibility of extending the capacity of the device to measure other pesticide compounds (pyrethroids and others) on other surfaces and expected range of measurements on such surfaces

The prototype should be ready to be field-tested by select operational departmental staff members at an Australian international airport who would provide feedback on ease of use of the device, etc. for further development.

Information sessions

Missed the information sessions held around the country? Watch the Measuring Pyrethroid Residue webcast and read the FAQs.

Before applying

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  • complete the online application at the I’m ready to apply tab
  • provide all the information required for us to assess your application
  • address all eligibility and merit criteria
  • include all mandatory attachments.


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