A paper published in Advanced Materials on June 4 details new optical nanosensors, 50 times thinner than a human hair — enabling them to be incorporated into wearables that could one day help doctors detect and manage chronic disease.
“This exciting invention shows that we are on the cusp of designing the next generation of wearable devices that will help people to stay well for longer and lead better lives,” explains associate professor Antonio Tricoli, head of the Nanotechnology Research Laboratory at ANU.
“This is like putting a lab in a watch.”
The sensors combine gold nanodisks with “fractal clusters” — tiny, branching molecules sensitive to changes in light — allowing them to detect very small concentrations of organic compounds. For now, it’s a proof of concept but in the future, the technology could be used to detect the molecules you breathe out or the diverse array of gases that emanate from your skin.
Being both “ultra-small” and “ultra-light”, the new optical sensors are incredibly versatile, allowing them to be incorporated into a range of devices that take their applications beyond personalized diagnostic medicine.
“Our sensors could be developed to detect whether a plant has a particular disease or a fruit is ripe, for example,” said Zelio Fusco, a PhD candidate working on the new sensors.
They could even be used to better understand the cosmos and search for extra-terrestrial organisms.
“They could potentially be fitted to micro-satellites or tiny spacecraft that could help in the hunt for life on distant planets,” said Dr Mohsen Rahmani, a researcher at ANU’s Research School of Physics and Engineering.
With that kind of versatility, there’s a chance that one day the new nanosensors could be placed aboard a spaceship — maybe even one bearing thebrand. What would Elon think of that?
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