Optical Nanosensor Production Only Needs CDs, Tape, and Aluminum

Optical nanosensor film can attach to human skin, detect motion and chemicals

2 min read
Optical Nanosensor Production Only Needs CDs, Tape, and Aluminum
Photo: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM)

Researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in Spain have developed a way to produce optical nanosensors that can stick to uneven surfaces as well as biological surfaces such as human skin.

The researchers believe that this technique will expand the use of wearable devices for monitoring body temperature, respiration, blood pressure, and other vital signs.

In research published in the journal Nanoscale, the Madrid-based team not only developed the fabrication technique to produce these optical nanosensors on regular adhesive tape, but also demonstrated a range of potential applications.

Chemicals can be detected by the nanosensors because they change the film’s refractive index when they bind to it.  The aluminum film along with the optical nanosensors also display iridescent colors. Because these colors can change according to the angle they are viewed it’s possible to use the film to detect small variations in position and provide a surface topography to whatever its stuck to.

The actual nanosensors are arrays of nanoholes that are drilled into an aluminum layer. It is the ability of these nanostructures to confine and disperse light that givens them the ability to measure refractive index or produce iridescence effects.

While all of this may sound like the cutting-edge of advanced materials—which it is—it starts from the rather mundane beginning of compact discs (CDs) made from traditional polycarbonate. The CDs have a unique surface that allows for a bond strong enough to permit the nanopatterning of aluminum films but just weak enough to allow for that aluminum film to be detached from the CDs’ surfaces by adhesive tape. A video of that stick and peel process can be found here.

Since inexpensive materials such as polycarbonate CDs, aluminum, and adhesive tape are used in place of more expensive things like noble metals the researchers believe that the manufacturing technique lends itself to low cost  mass production.

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This CAD Program Can Design New Organisms

Genetic engineers have a powerful new tool to write and edit DNA code

11 min read
A photo showing machinery in a lab

Foundries such as the Edinburgh Genome Foundry assemble fragments of synthetic DNA and send them to labs for testing in cells.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry, University of Edinburgh

In the next decade, medical science may finally advance cures for some of the most complex diseases that plague humanity. Many diseases are caused by mutations in the human genome, which can either be inherited from our parents (such as in cystic fibrosis), or acquired during life, such as most types of cancer. For some of these conditions, medical researchers have identified the exact mutations that lead to disease; but in many more, they're still seeking answers. And without understanding the cause of a problem, it's pretty tough to find a cure.

We believe that a key enabling technology in this quest is a computer-aided design (CAD) program for genome editing, which our organization is launching this week at the Genome Project-write (GP-write) conference.

With this CAD program, medical researchers will be able to quickly design hundreds of different genomes with any combination of mutations and send the genetic code to a company that manufactures strings of DNA. Those fragments of synthesized DNA can then be sent to a foundry for assembly, and finally to a lab where the designed genomes can be tested in cells. Based on how the cells grow, researchers can use the CAD program to iterate with a new batch of redesigned genomes, sharing data for collaborative efforts. Enabling fast redesign of thousands of variants can only be achieved through automation; at that scale, researchers just might identify the combinations of mutations that are causing genetic diseases. This is the first critical R&D step toward finding cures.

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