September 28, 2023

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ANU designs versatile optical sensors that will allow earlier disease-detection in real time

ANU designs versatile optical sensors that will allow earlier disease-detection in real time

An announcement
made by the
Australian National University
(ANU) highlighted on the tiny optical
sensors that its scientists are working on. 50 times thinner than human hair,
these sensors can change the way wearable devices for medical diagnosis is
made. This will allow doctors to detect diseases earlier than can be done at
present. There will be no need for batteries, wires or large and expensive lab
equipment as it uses pulse of light to track biomarkers of disease.

Scientists from the ANU have designed tiny
optical sensors that may pave the way for the development of a wearable device
that allows doctors to medically diagnose the health of people in real time.

Leader of the Nanotechnology Research
Laboratory at the ANU Research School of Engineering Associate Professor Dr Antonio
Tricoli said that the sensors are guaranteed to help doctors detect diseases
such as diabetes much earlier than possible at present, and better manage
chronic diseases someday. The sensors are 50 times thinner than a human hair.

"These ultra-small sensors could be
integrated into a watch to literally provide a window on our health," said
Dr Tricoli.

He added, "This exciting invention
shows that we are on the cusp of designing the next generation of wearable
devices that will help people to stay well for longer and lead better

Dr Tricoli explained that the sensors could
measure very small concentrations of gases coming through your skin and breath
called metabolites, allowing doctors to keep track of people's health in real

"You could simply use a pulse of light
to track these biomarkers of disease. There'd be no need for batteries, wires
or large and expensive lab equipment," he said.

He furthered, “A wearable medical
diagnostic device using our optical sensors may one day eliminate the need for
blood tests and many other invasive procedures.”

Mr Zelio Fusco is a PhD scholar in Dr
Tricoli's lab. He said that the advantage of these new sensors over other types
being developed for wearable medical devices is its ability to detect
metabolites in much smaller concentrations. Moreover, it can operate at room

"The beauty of our sensors is that
they are super versatile and can be integrated into different technologies for
applications ranging from medical diagnosis, farming and space
exploration," added Mr Fusco.

He furthered, "Our sensors could be
developed to detect whether a plant has a particular disease or a fruit is
ripe, for example."

Dr Mohsen Rahmani is an Australian Research Council
(ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Fellow at the Nonlinear Physics Centre
the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.  He is a co-researcher in the project.

Mohsen Rahmani said the sensors combined very small gold nanostructures with
semiconductors in a way that created unique properties to enable the detection
of gas molecules at very low concentrations.

"As the sensors are ultra-small and
ultra-light, they could potentially be fitted to micro-satellites or tiny
spacecraft that could help in the hunt for life on distant planets, by telling
us if there are trace organic molecules of living organisms on distant
planets," explained Dr Rahmani.

The Queensland University of Technology
and the Chalmers
University of Technology
in Sweden supported ANU to conduct this

The research is published in Advanced


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