Advanced Paper Will Soon Be Used As A Diagnostic Tool

Advanced PaperScientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have designed a new advanced paper, which is capable of repelling several types of liquids, some of which include water and oil. With a mix of nano and micron-scale structures along with a thin layer fluorocarbon, the advanced paper will lead to the new designs for inexpensive biomedical devices and diagnostic applications. Liquid droplets, composed of antigens flow through a printed surface, with the use of a special hydrophobic ink. Zintro experts discuss the possibility to detect the presence of various diseases if appropriate reagents are used with this technology.

Chris Stepanian, an expert in advanced materials and nanomaterials doesn’t consider efficient, low-cost printing to be a relatively new technology. “Researchers are now using paper and printing for new practices; low-cost microfluidics for applications such as health testing. Cost is a major driver for health testing along with the need for power, water, training, portability and test stability, especially in rigors of the developing world,” he explains. “Imagine being able to print large rolls or sheets of thousands of complex microfluidic structures using something as simple as a printer.” As Stepanian further points out, the reason why researchers turned the paper into a super-water, oil repellent and selectively absorbent material, was to promote the rapid movement and testing for liquids such as body fluids. “Channels using materials as simple as wax are used in order to contain the fluid being tested, separate that fluid into various flows, and move them to reagent-infused regions of the paper for testing,” notes Stepanian. “Testing commonly consists of visual feedback, which is suitable for analysis by human eye or an image snapped and analyzed by a smartphone.” Moreover, GeorgiaTech and Harvard scientists have been working on alternatives to enable 3-D flow, functionality with solvents and electrical feedback with the use of copper-based inks. “All of these approaches have been focused on taking what is currently done in a lab using expensive test equipment along with highly-trained technicians and enabling the test to be done in the field at pennies per test,” he adds. “‘Diagnostics for All’ is a Gates Foundation-funded, MIT $100k winner non-profit seeking to bring life-changing diagnostic testing to the developing world using microfluidics technologies developed at the Whitesides labs at Harvard University.”

Polymer and membrane scientist, Chaoyang Feng, who has been working in the same field, shares his experience and describes the best way to develop bioactive papers. “The major challenge is to develop a more sensitive and faster method to decrease the response time for the bioactive paper. I have already found a great way to approach it,” notes Feng. “Nano and microtechnologies could both solve this problem. I believe there is a big market for the new technology, but more importantly, we should design a better technology in order to enter the market.”

By Idil Kan

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