WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have developed a new modeling technique to study and design miniature "biosensors," a tool that could help industry perfect lab-on-a-chip technology for uses ranging from medical diagnostics to environmental monitoring.
The experimental devices represent a new class of portable sensors designed to capture and detect specific "target molecules," which will allow the sensors to identify pathogens, DNA or other substances.
Now researchers at Purdue University are the first to create "a new conceptual framework" and corresponding computational model to relate the shape of a sensor to its performance and explain why certain designs perform better than others, said Ashraf Alam, a professor of electrical and computer engineering.
Findings also refute long-held assumptions about how to improve sensor performance.
The researchers tested and validated their model with experimental data from various other laboratories.
"Many universities and companies are conducting experiments in biosensors," Alam said. "The problem is that until now there has been no way to consistently interpret the wealth of data available to the research community. Our work provides a completely different perspective on how to analyze their data and how to interpret them."
Research findings are detailed in a paper that appeared in the Dec. 21 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. The paper was written by electrical and computer engineering doctoral student Pradeep Nair and Alam.
Biosensors integrate electronic circuitry with natural molecules, such as antibodies or DNA, which enable the devices to capture target molecules. In efforts to design more sensitive devices, engineers have created sensors with various geometries: some capture the biomolecules on a flat, or planar surface, others use a single cylindrical nanotube as a sensing element, and others use several nanotubes, arranged in a crissc
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