IMPACTING HEALTHCARE and industry WITH MICRO- AND NANOTECHNOLOGY
Advanced, sensitive sensors have become a driving force in modern medicine and healthcare, but also in smart industry. Using sensors to monitor blood glucose levels with as little as a drop of blood has improved the quality of life for many patients. Furthermore, new, smaller sensors can now be used to monitor milk in tanks on site, whereas before samples had to be brought all the way to a specialized lab. In both cases, better and smaller sensors are allowing for faster, more efficient, and more precise diagnostics. Evidently, the relevance of research in sensing is ever increasing.
Using nanotechnology to innovate sensors
The need for better, more precise sensors is pushing conventional manufacturing methods to their limits. At MESA+, therefore, we believe researching sensors on a micro- or even nanoscale will be the way forward for many innovations in sensing. Chemical processes, for example, occur on a nanoscale level; making the use of sensors that work on a nanoscale common sense. This allows monitoring chemical processes in a more detailed way. However, miniaturizing not only creates the possibility of more precise sensors, but also allows for more efficient mass production of these sensors. This means cheaper sensors, affordable for more companies, medical institutes, and patients.
Looking at sensing from a broad perspective
“New sensors able to continuously monitor blood sugar content allow for a better, more direct view for diabetes patients. However, research showed that constant worrying about their blood sugar level actually decreased the quality of life for some patients” says Jeroen Cornelissen. This highlights the importance of a broad perspective on development in sensors. It is why Sensing, Science, and Technology is a University of Twente broad programme. In this programme, MESA+ has a large influence on the technological side, but other lines of studies, such as psychology, are also involved.
The eNose: Smelling diseases on a patient’s breath
A cutting-edge example of the drastic changes in sensing nanotechnology entails is the eNose. This sensor can use very specific markers in breath of patients to detect long cancer. The conventional methods of diagnosing lung cancer involve getting a chest x-ray or even a bronchoscopy, where a tube is inserted into the bronchi. This very invasive method may in future be avoided by using the eNose.