EU project develops paper thin electronic sensors for testing
2 March 2012
Paper-thin sensors that use the latest technology in
miniaturisation and printing could revolutionise the way point-of-care
testing is carried out for cholesterol and lead to further applications
and developments of the technology.
The state-of the-art sensors will analyse and display results
taken from a blood sample and will include a printed battery and
mobile phone interface on a paper-thin disposable device.
The project to develop smart integrated miniaturised sensors
(SIMS) is being led by Professor Tony Killard at UWE Bristol as part
of an EU FP7 funded programme with four European partners:
University of Liverpool ; DCU (Dublin City University); VTT; and
The research draws on biotechnology, electroanalytical chemistry,
materials science, electronic and production engineering and brings
these together with advances in print technology to develop a single
disposable point-of-use test.
Point-of-care tests are already widely used — for example, over a
billion strips for testing glucose levels for diabetes patients are
already produced each year.
The new application takes this concept to a new level, by
building into a single strip a number of functions that include a
nanobiosensor, printed display, printed battery and mobile phone
interface. The strip itself will do the test, calculate the result
and offer a means of communicating or relaying this information via
a mobile phone. All this will be printed on to a paper-thin
Professor Tony Killard explains, “The focus of our research is to
bring the different elements together in a single device that can be
produced on a mass scale. The physical integration of the elements
is key to the success of the device.
“These ‘point of care’ tests and devices, if mass produced, can
make health care technology more accessible to a wider population
and improve the management of health conditions. Elevated
cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the
major cause of death in most countries of the EU and estimated to
cost the EU economy nearly €200 billion/year. This type of test
could be self administered and would enable a person to see if their
cholesterol levels were high, or to see if the drugs and/or
lifestyle changes they were doing to lower their cholesterol levels
“Other applications of this technology would include using this
in remote locations to facilitate diagnosis and treatment where
laboratory facilities are not available. With the mobile phone
interface, the results can be translated into a text message,
recorded and processed.
“Printing is a key technology for creating such mass produced
devices and we will use a combination of photolithography, screen
and ink jet printing and lamination. The SIMS device will use the
latest organic printed electronics, avoiding the use of silicon,
which is less sustainable. Through this project we want to push the
technology of printed electronics towards novel application in
health care and diagnostics.
“We hope at the end of this project to have an operational bio
sensor device to detect cholesterol levels available for
pre-clinical testing of clinical samples. This will enable us to
validate that the device gives a result that is relevant, before we
compare it with results from traditional methods. This is the
standard way of testing before moving forward to clinical trials. We
need to prove the technology works before we moved forward to test
it on people.”
The SIMS device will be low cost, disposable and maintenance
free. It aims to bring together key technologies into a single
relevant concept that will have benefit for people and health.