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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P018998/1
Title: Thin Film Acoustic Wave Platform for Conformable and Mechanically Flexible Biosensors
Principal Investigator: Fu, Professor RY
Other Investigators:
McHale, Professor G Todryk, Professor S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Epigem Ltd (Middlesbrough) OJ-Bio Ltd
Department: Fac of Engineering and Environment
Organisation: Northumbria, University of
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 02 July 2017 Ends: 30 June 2021 Value (£): 346,416
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev. Microsystems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
01 Dec 2016 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 1 and 2 December 2016 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In this project, we will research a new platform technology to manufacture flexible devices enabling non-invasive and rapid medical diagnostics. Due to global ageing and the increased burden of cancer/chronic diseases, there is a huge demand worldwide for efficient and inexpensive mobile healthcare, e-care, and home/point-of-care systems. These will not only be able to stop the cycle of transmission in infectious diseases, thus reducing their impact, but also allow us to monitor health conditions frequently (e.g. with wearable sensors) and tailor treatment as required, thus providing more efficient therapies. A key challenge for such devices is to integrate all the functions required to perform advanced diagnostics, such as sample manipulation, purification and sensing, onto a low-cost, mechanically flexible diagnostic/treatment platform, such that testing can be performed rapidly and frequently (for example in wearable patch applications). To be widely and effectively adopted, flexible diagnostics need to be conformable to diagnostic/treatment surfaces or to adapt to changes in surface shape (such as the human body), as well as to be compatible with large scale and low cost manufacturing technologies such as roll-to-roll/printing, whilst providing versatile integrated sampling/purification/sensing functions. These flexible and body comfortable sensors are becoming a promising route for new generations of personalised biomedical tools.

Here, we will use the mechanical energy propagated by acoustic waves on the surface of flexible foils, onto which we deposited a structured piezo-electric thin film. By controlling the orientation of the film, we will be able, for the first time, to integrate a large variety of fluid manipulation functions together with highly sensitive sensing, using a single technology. This will enable us to simplify design and manufacturing constraints significantly, leading to the potential of using large scale and low-cost manufacturing, drastically enhancing the availability and usefulness of personalised diagnostic devices. Our platform is based on versatile acoustic wave modes (integrating both microfluidics and sensing) compatible with roll-to-roll manufacturing and thin film/microfabrication technologies.

In the past decades, a large number of microfluidic and molecular sensing technologies have been developed based on integrated lab-on-chip, however only a few have been successfully introduced into the market, with one key reason for this attrition being that sampling (sample selection, collection and preparation, e.g., mixing, purification, filtering, washing, and then delivering to sensors) has not been successfully integrated into complete diagnosis systems in a simple, low-cost and efficient manner. In particular, there have been significant challenges in the integration of microfluidics (for sampling) with biosensing (detection) technologies, due to the different technologies that each function relies on, rendering the instrumentation too complex for truly portable and conformable systems. In this research, in partnership with industry, we will develop an innovative solution to integrate different acoustic modalities, which can provide different actuations of the sample (sampling, purification, sensing), using the formation of inclined angled ZnO thin films, such that we are able to generate and control different wave modes, i.e., longitudinal and shear waves on one platform. This will realise low-cost/flexible acoustic wave devices with integrated sensing and microfluidic functions.

Key Findings
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