New Tyndall nanosensor up to 1,000 times more sensitive

12 Sep 2011

Pictured: Prof Roger Whatmore and Dr Alan O'Riordan, Tyndall, and Minister Sean Sherlock

The development of a new nanosensor technology that can be up to 1,000 times more sensitive at detecting biological molecules that may indicate the early stages of certain diseases than current devices has been announced today by the Tyndall National Institute.

Details of the highly advanced sensor technology were revealed this morning at the Sensors & Their Applications XVI conference in Cork. Developed by a team of researchers at Tyndall National Institute, the technology is based on individual nanowires manufactured on a silicon chip using microelectronic fabrication techniques. 

“The sensor technology can significantly out-perform current commercial detection devices by up to a 1,000 fold, in some cases,” said Dr Alan O’Riordan, who leads the research team and is also chairing the conference. “As well as in health, it has tremendous potential in a range of sectors, including food and beverage, environment and security sectors, where highly sensitive detection is required.

“Many research teams around the world are looking at ways to detect the tiniest traces of the molecule called hydrogen peroxide,” said O’Riordan. “Many recognise the molecule for its characteristics as a bleaching agent used in hair dyes. However, in biological systems, hydrogen peroxide is produced naturally and trace amounts exist in the body. Higher than normal levels may indicate the onset of a disease. For example, it may be produced at higher concentrations in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and it is also a key indicator molecule for detecting food spoilage. 

“This research, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the EU Framework Programmes, will now focus on detecting other key health-related molecules, including glucose and cholesterol,” he said.

“The development of new classes of highly sensitive nanosensor technologies will support the development of future device innovation and has tremendous benefit for improving the health and safety of our citizens, as well as contributing to the generation of sustainable economic growth and employment creation.”

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