Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Receives Award for Biosensor

Sandia National Laboratories researchers competing in an international pool received four R&D awards this year. The awards focused on practical effects rather than pure research. One of the awards given to Sandia researchers was for the development of a biosensor in collaboration with the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

The project “Acoustic Wave Biosensor for Rapid Point-of-Care Medical Diagnosis” is essentially a handheld, battery-powered portable detection system capable of identifying a wide range of medically relevant pathogens from their biomolecular signatures.

Detection can occur within minutes, not hours, at the point-of-care whether that care is in a physician’s office, a hospital bed, or at the scene of a biodefense or biomedical emergency. According to the researchers, the device provides fast, low-cost diagnostic results with as good or better sensitivity than traditional techniques.

The device’s sensor array works like a miniature analytical balance, weighing the amount of pathogen that binds to its surfaces. The pathogen-bound sensor acts like a spring with a small weight bouncing at one end. As more pathogens stick to the surface, the weight on the spring increases causing the spring’s bouncing speed to decrease by a measurable amount. The sensors detect minute weight differences by this method.

A variety of sticky substances attach to different pathogens. Surface tension draws the sample over the sensor so no pumps or valves are required. This makes the sensors smaller, more reliable and less expensive to manufacture, and the process extends the operating time of the rechargeable batteries. System control, data analysis, and reporting are performed by a personal digital assistant.