Flexible gold sensor could unlock next-gen medical implants

Flexible gold sensor could unlock next-gen medical implants

A thin, flexible gold sensor engineered at The University of Queensland (UQ) could unlock the next generation of implantable medical devices.

Using a new engineering method, researchers at UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) were able to produce a small film-like sensor that is both flexible and sensitive enough to enable a more streamlined future for electronic medical implants and real-time sensing applications.

The approach used by Dr Mostafa Kamal Masud and PhD candidate Aditya Ashok suggests a new way to miniaturise and improve medical devices for diagnostics, biological sensing and neurological exploration.

“Although modern implanted electronics have developed rapidly over the past 60 years, most commercially available devices are still built on relatively similar — and limiting — design concepts such as thick ceramic or titanium packaging,” Masud said.

“We are offering a new route toward miniaturised, flexible, implanted medical devices that will diagnose and treat chronic diseases and help improve the lives of millions of people.”

The film-like sensor designed by Masud and Ashok represents a novel approach to the field of mesoporous materials, which are highly porous substances with traits that benefit diagnostics, catalysis and drug delivery. Using a novel hybrid fabrication process under the guidance of senior AIBN group leader Professor Yusuke Yamauchi, Masud and Ashok were able to synthesise a mesoporous gold film that acts as an electrode for biosensing and bioimplant applications.

The flexibility and sensitivity of the gold film make it an ideal wearable system for real-time monitoring of body glucose, while Masud said there was strong potential for implanted nerve recording applications. “The demand for a simple and robust fabrication process with this kind of flexible electronics is enormous,” Masud said.

“Our aim here is to see this sensor embedded in wearable devices — but the potential and possibilities in this field are vast. We’re going to be exploring more in our coming projects.”

The research was published as an inside cover feature for the nano-micro journal Small. Masud and Ashok acknowledged Dr Hoang-Phuong Phan from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at the University of New South Wales as a key collaborator in their broader work. This includes research on implanted bioelectrodes, as published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Image credit: AIBN

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