Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Hydrogels used to make precise new sensor

09.02.2011
Researchers are developing a new type of biological and chemical sensor that has few moving parts, is low-cost and yet highly sensitive, sturdy and long-lasting.

The "diffraction-based" sensors are made of thin stripes of a gelatinous material called a hydrogel, which expands and contracts depending on the acidity of its environment.

Recent research findings have demonstrated that the sensor can be used to precisely determine pH - a measure of how acidic or basic a liquid is - revealing information about substances in liquid environments, said Cagri Savran (pronounced Chary Savran), an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

The sensor's simple design could make it more practical than other sensors in development, he said.

"Many sensors being developed today are brilliantly designed but are too expensive to produce, require highly skilled operators and are not robust enough to be practical," said Savran, whose work is based at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university's Discovery Park.

New findings show the technology is highly sensitive and might be used in chemical and biological applications including environmental monitoring in waterways and glucose monitoring in blood.

"As with any novel platform, more development is needed, but the detection principle behind this technology is so simple that it wouldn't be difficult to commercialize," said Savran, who is collaborating with another team of researchers led by Babak Ziaie, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.

Findings are detailed in a paper presented during the IEEE Sensors 2010 Conference in November and also published in the conference proceedings. The paper was written by postdoctoral researcher Chun-Li Chang, doctoral student Zhenwen Ding, Ziaie and Savran.

The flexible, water-insoluble hydrogel is formed into a series of raised stripes called a "diffraction grating," which is coated with gold on both the stripe surfaces and the spaces in between. The stripes expand and contract depending on the pH level of the environment.

Researchers in Ziaie's lab fabricated the hydrogel, while Savran's group led work in the design, development and testing of the diffraction-based sensor.

The sensors work by analyzing laser light reflecting off the gold coatings. Reflections from the stripes and spaces in between interfere with each other, creating a "diffraction pattern" that differs depending on the height of the stripes.

These diffraction patterns indicate minute changes in the movement of the hydrogel stripes in response to the environment, in effect measuring changes in pH.

"By precise measurement of pH, the diffraction patterns can reveal a lot of information about the sample environment," said Savran, who by courtesy is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical and computer engineering. "This technology detects very small changes in the swelling of the diffraction grating, which makes them very sensitive."

The pH of a liquid is recorded on a scale from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 the most basic. Findings showed the device's high sensitivity enables it to resolve changes smaller than one-1,000th on the pH scale, measuring swelling of only a few nanometers. A nanometer is about 50,000 times smaller than the finest sand grain.

"We know we can make them even more sensitive," Savran said. "By using different hydrogels, gratings responsive to stimuli other than pH can also be fabricated."

The work is ongoing.

"It's a good example of collaborations that can blossom when labs focusing on different research are located next to each other," Savran said. "Professor Ziaie's lab was already working with hydrogels, and my group was working on diffraction-based sensors. Hearing about the hydrogels work next door, one of my postdoctoral researchers, Chun-Li Chang thought of making a reflective diffraction grating out of hydrogels."

The Office of Technology Commercialization of the Purdue Research Foundation has filed for U.S. patent protection on the concept.

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Sources: Cagri A. Savran, 765 494-8601, savran@purdue.edu

Babak Ziaie, 765-494-0725, bziaie@purdue.edu

Emil Venere | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>