Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM, together with industry and health-care partners, have developed a graphene oxide-based sensor platform to detect acute bacterial and viral infections. The rapid test detects infections within 15 minutes, including antibodies against the coronavirus and sepsis.
Addressing the challenges in diagnosing infections quickly and reliably, researchers at the Fraunhofer IZM reported that they’ve been working on the Graph-POC project to develop a graphene oxide-based sensor platform since April 2018. The test only requires a single drop of blood or saliva to perform an accurate analysis, according to researchers.
The test platform also may be used to detect antibodies that are present after a patient has recovered from an infection.
Researchers attribute the detection accuracy to the base material – graphene oxide, which is electrically conductive and biocompatible. Currently only used in microelectronics in a 2D monolayer, researchers are now applying it in a 3D structure in the form of flakes. It’s the 3D form that increases the measuring surface and the accuracy of measurements, said researchers.
Graphene oxide-based biosensors, developed by researchers at Fraunhofer IZM, can detect bacterial and viral infections within just 15 minutes. © Fraunhofer IZM
Researchers also are pivoting the application direction toward detecting earlier infections with the COVID-19 virus to help trace how the infection spreads.
“We can pivot from the current medical field to also develop in the direction of the point of need; that is, towards environmental technology and the detection of environmental impacts. But of course the corona application is our first priority,” said Manuel Bäuscher, scientist at Fraunhofer IZM and sub-project manager at Graph-POC, in a statement.
“The graphene oxide flakes’ 3D array and heightened sensitivity also open the door to further applications. For example, it could detect harmful gases such as carbon monoxide or acetone even at room temperature. As it stands, these gases have to first be heated to trigger a surface reaction that today’s sensors can detect. The graphene oxide sensor reacts at lower temperatures when metal oxides bond with its sensitive surface,” he added.
At the same time, researchers are working to scale up the manufacturing process for mass production by applying the graphene oxide coating at the wafer level, so hundreds of chips can be processed at once.
But more work needs to be done, said researchers, before the rapid tests can be deployed, including integrating the graphene oxide-based sensors into a plastic carrier and then performing reliability testing.
The original project to detect infections is scheduled to run until Spring 2021, but researchers don’t expect to verify the sensor for the coronavirus for another year.
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