by Michael D’Agati ’18
An electrochemical biosensor is a type of sensor that can provide quantifiable information based on the relationship between electricity and an identifiable chemical change inside a human, such as a glucose sensor that uses electrical means to detect change. Recently, paper-based devices have grown in the development of electrochemical applications because of their simplicity, low cost, and smaller usage of laboratory devices and materials. One application of paper-based electrochemical biosensors is quantifying nerve agents. Nerve agents are chemicals that suppress a nerve ending’s ability to fire, sometimes causing a loss of control of muscles and harshly attacking the body’s nervous system. Chemical weapons usually contain nerve agents.
Professor Fabiana Arduini from the University of Rome and her team of researchers have developed an integrated paper-based screen-printed electrochemical biosensor device that is able to quantify nerve agents. The paper-based platform for the device was created by screen-printing a three-electrode system on wax printed paper. Silver ink was used as a reference electrode material and carbon ink was used as a test material. Butyrylcholinesterase solution (BChE) was drop cast over the test area to complete the platform. Nerve agent detection was carried out by exploiting the device’s ability to inhibit BChE. This would trigger an enzymatic reaction, which creates a byproduct called Thiocholine that can be quantified.
This project was able to fully develop a paper-based electrochemical biosensor with the ability to quantify nerve agents. The biosensor is fully portable, simple to create, and very cost effective. The total cost of the device was $0.02, compared to the previous commercial products that cost about $2.17 per device. A device like this allows remote areas of the world that are possibly affected by chemical and biological weapons or other means to be monitored more quickly and easily.
- S. Cinti et al., Fully integrated ready-to-use paper-based electrochemical biosensor to detect nerve agents. Biosensors and Bioelectronics, (2016). doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2016.10.091.
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