Posted on 19 September 2016
A new type of sensor has been described in a recent Nature Communications paper (DOI: 0.1038/ncomms12769). This work was the result of a collaboration between the University of York's physics, electronics and chemistry departments. Dr Alison Parkin, who uses electrochemical methods to probe the mechanism of proteins in her research, together with colleagues from electronics and physics were able to demonstrate that a silicon sensor could be used to generate an photoelectric response i.e. responses that are both optical and electrical.
This combination of sensing responses allows for a more in-depth analysis of smaller biological samples, which could result in speeding up the process by testing for multiple disease biomarkers at once. Rapid testing using such a device could allow for the testing of resistance of a patient's bacterial infection to antibiotic, enabling the most effective antibiotic to be more quickly used for treatment.
Site-selective modifications of the sensor's surface using electrochemical grafting allowed for multiple groups to be added which are selective for different biomarkers, allowing for control of their position on a micrometre scale so that a high density of the detecting chemical groups could be achieved.
Alison Parkin said "we are delighted to have demonstrated that silicon, the cheap and readily available material which underpins the electronics industry, can be modified in such a way to allow highly selective and sensitive monitoring of DNA binding. I hope that this invention will underpin future developments in affordable diagnostic devices to improve healthcare."