WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - 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
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