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HYSENS Aims to Develop Smart Sensing Materials

Photonics.com
Apr 2011
CORK, Ireland, April 13, 2011 — Tyndall National Institute at the University of County Cork has started coordinating a €3 million (about $4.3 million) European Union (EU) project for the development of smart sensing materials for applications in water purification technology and clinical diagnostics.

The nine partners involved in the EU’s HYSENS (Hybrid Molecule/Nanocrystal Assemblies for Photonic and Electronic Sensing Applications) project will work on the fabrication of innovative materials that will detect the concentration of ions such as sodium, potassium and calcium in water and body fluids in a faster, cheaper and more effective way than current commercial technologies.

“The increasing shortage of water supply [seven European countries constituting 35 percent of the European population are at risk of water shortfall] has led to the implementation of recycling plants for both potable water and technological applications, thus increasing the demand for low-cost and fast contaminant detection technologies,” said Daniela Iacopino, Tyndall researcher and project coordinator.

“For example, ultrapure water is an essential reagent for the manufacture of semiconductor, pharmaceutical and power plant industries. Existing and future industries are required to detect contaminant levels down to nanogram-per-liter concentration limits,” she said. “These limits can today only be met with the incorporation of water analysis systems at the moment prohibitively expensive to implement.”

In the clinical diagnostic area, however, there is an increasing demand for innovative low-cost analysis technologies that could be applied in emergency rooms to obtain fast indication for the diagnosis of specific diseases, Iacopino added. Ion tests, she said, routinely are performed with techniques whose concentration detection limits are in the milligram-per-liter range.

“Although these limits meet the specifications required, more accurate, selective and sensitive methods would revolutionize the field of diagnostics for early detection and management of renal, endocrine, acid-base, water balance disorders and many other conditions,” she said.

“We are very excited to lead this research project, which brings together world-class interdisciplinary research groups from six European countries. The novel materials fabricated within HYSENS will offer significant advantages over conventional technologies in terms of analysis time, cost and quality. For example, the actual cost per analysis of ions in body fluids is today estimated to be in the range €1.7 to €27.5 [$2.46 to $40]. Since the materials proposed by HYSENS are based on low-cost starting materials and fabrication routes, we are estimating to bring the cost per analysis down to €0.05 to €1,” Iacopino said.

The total cost of the three-year project is estimated at €3.4 million (about $5 million), of which €3 million is provided in grant funding from the EU Commission. Instrumentation company Cellix Ltd. is the other Irish partner involved in HYSENS. Together, Tyndall and Cellix will receive €920,000 ($1.3 million) from the EU for this project.

For more information, visit: www.tyndall.ie  


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