New Sensors & Devices

Biosensor diagnostics based on bio-functionalised semiconductor devices are an important development in ultrasensitive sensors for early detection of disease biomarkers. Nanowire and nano-channel devices will play an indispensable role in future of such sensor applications. The global research activity in nanoscale sensors is primarily driven by the unique properties of nanowires, namely (a) the enhanced sensitivity that can be achieved due to the increased surface-to volume ratio, (b) the novel quantum effects that arise and (c) the potential increase in device density.

Graphene channels, silicon nanowire and metal oxide nanowire sensor devices are all being fabricated within the Centre for NanoHealth.

These sensors promise to be a disruptive technology in next generation electronics and healthcare diagnostics - due to the exceptional electronic properties of these nanoscale materials. They have the potential for detecting disease biomarkers at ultra-low concentrations. This means that disease biomarkers could be detected not only in blood, but also in urine or saliva, offering less invasive testing.

At the Centre for NanoHealth, sensor diagnosics are being developed for glucose (diabetes), cardiac disease and pregnancy markers, and markers for various cancers.

Devices are now being integrated with lab-on-chip microfluidics and electronics. This system has been specifically developed for Point-of-Care (POC) medical diagnostics. Already the Centre is benefitting from the level of interest shown by companies and academic partners for new Research and Development projects.

The Centre for NanoHealth at Swansea University houses expertise and equipment to fabricate and characterise these structures within a cleanroom environment. Researchers have made significant progress in developing the growth of graphene channel, silicon nanowire and highly ordered ZnO nanowire vertical arrays. Prototype sensors, developed through collaborative research with industry are now being trialled for detection of biomarkers at clinically relevant concentrations.

A recent highlight within the Centre was a £1.9M EPSRC project developing a miniaturised blood coagulation sensor based on the piezoelectric properties of zinc oxide nanowire arrays (the grant was ranked first in the UK at the EPSRC panel meeting). Many other collaborations have been initiated with companies and individuals based on the development of medical sensors and diagnostics using the materials, facilities and expertise in the Centre.