GAINESVILLE, Fla. A tiny new sensor could provide fresh, inexpensive diagnosis and treatment methods for people suffering from a variety of diseases.
University of Florida engineers have designed and tested versions of the sensor for applications ranging from monitoring diabetics' glucose levels via their breath to detecting possible indicators of breast cancer in saliva. They say early results are promising particularly considering that the sensor can be mass produced inexpensively with technology already widely used for making chips in cell phones and other devices.
"This uses known manufacturing technology that is already out there," said Fan Ren, a professor of chemical engineering and one of a team of engineers collaborating on the project.
The team has published 15 peer-reviewed papers on different versions of the sensor, most recently in this month's edition of IEEE Sensors Journal. In that paper, members report integrating the sensor in a wireless system that can detect glucose in exhaled breath, then relay the findings to health care workers. That makes the sensor one of several non-invasive devices in development to replace the finger prick kits widely used by diabetics.
Tests with the sensor contradict long-held assumptions that glucose levels in the breath are too small for accurate assessment, Ren said. That's because the sensor uses a semiconductor that amplifies the minute signals to readable levels, he said.
"Instead of poking your finger to get the blood, you can just breathe into it and measure the glucose in the breath condensate," Ren said.
In the IEEE paper and other published work, the researchers report using the sensor to detect pH or alkalinity levels in the breath, a technique that could help people who suffer from asthma better identify and treat asthma attacks as well as calibrate the sensitivity of the glucose sensor. The engineers have used other versions to experiment
|Contact: Aaron Hoover|
University of Florida