Durable Sensors Composed of Imprinted Polymers

Achievement date: 
2016
Outcome/accomplishment: 

A new process that imprints polymers at the molecular level can create stable, electrochemical sensors that mimic biological receptors. The process was developed by Florida International University researchers as part of the Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), funded by the NSF and based at North Carolina State University.

Impact/benefits: 

This invention enables simple, direct detection of substances without using biologic components, such as natural enzymes or antibodies.  Instead, through molecular imprinting of polymers, these synthetic equivalents of organic receptors will increase the shelf life and longevity of tiny sensors, and allow them to be used repeatedly.

Explanation/Background: 

Instead of relying on natural components to sense particular analytes, synthetic polymers are formed in the presence of the target substance. The analyte acts as a template while the polymer arranges itself around it. The substance is removed, leaving an imprinted molecular cavity that enables the polymer to rebind later with the specific substance.

These electrochemical sensors can be applied to a wide range of substances, including perhaps the detection of cortisol, an important hormone in the body that plays a key role in several stress-related diseases, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Further, through use of metal nanoparticles, sensitivity is increased compared to other approaches.