Thursday, September 21, 2006

Enzyme sensor

Intel has plans to move into medicine. A patent application from the world's biggest microchip-maker reveals a method for using tried-and-tested silicon fabrication techniques to mass produce low cost biosensors for home or hospital use. Putting many sensors on a single chip should reduce the power needed to drive such a device.

To make the biosensors, identical pairs of piezoelectric electrodes are deposited on a silicon wafer and some of the silicon beneath each electrode is etched away to create an identical pair of resonant cavities. When a current is passed through the electrodes, they vibrate with identical resonance.

An enzyme such as glucose oxidase is then attached to one of the two electrodes. When the chip is exposed to blood sugar, this binds with the enzyme making the electrode underneath heavier. The two electrodes then vibrate differently, which an on-chip sensor can easily detect. And comparing its resonance to a stored database provides a quick blood-sugar reading.

If the electrodes are coated with antibodies or DNA instead of enzymes, the chip could also provide early warning of an infection


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