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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V001655/1
Title: Terahertz Lab-on-a-Chip for Bio-liquid Analysis
Principal Investigator: Hanham, Dr SM
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Entia Ltd
Department: Electronic, Electrical and Computer Eng
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 February 2021 Ends: 15 May 2024 Value (£): 315,377
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Design & Testing Technology
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev. Microsystems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Manufacturing Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 Jun 2020 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 10 and 11 June 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
There is an increasing global demand for new technologies which deliver rapid and accurate medical diagnostics and lead to improved patient outcomes. The biological sensors field has grown dramatically to meet this demand, aided by significant improvements in microfluidics and microelectronics. This revolution in micro-technology has led to the realisation of biological sensors in the form of a lab-on-a-chip (LOC) that can perform one or more lab analyses of minute quantities of liquid samples on a single chip. This analysis can take many different forms such as chemical, acoustic, low-frequency electrical or optical.

The terahertz frequency range (100 GHz to 3 THz) is an emerging area for the electromagnetic analysis of biological systems. For biological liquids, it is capable of probing rotational and vibrational modes present in biomolecule-solvent systems and is also highly sensitive to biomolecular hydration, temperature, binding and conformational states. Despite these significant advantages for sensing, terahertz waves suffer from a relatively long wavelength which limits the smallest detectable object or liquid volume that can be sensed to a size comparable to a wavelength cubed. This size limit, called the diffraction limit, is significantly larger than many objects of interest such as a biological cell.

In this work, we propose to integrate multiple terahertz resonators with a microfluidic system to create a LOC capable of rapidly sensing free-flowing bio-liquids. The resonators are designed to concentrate the measuring electric field down to a volume comparable to a cell size, overcoming the diffraction limit, and permitting the electromagnetic analysis of picolitre quantities of biological liquids and individual cells. This LOC will function as a measurement platform for scientific studies of cells, extremely small quantities of various cell components (e.g. proteins, DNA and RNA) and other biomolecules of interest.

The research programme intends to push the current state-of-the-art in terahertz liquid sensing in terms of sensitivity (10x), minimum sample volume and low-cost fabrication to open up new sensing and diagnostic opportunities in point-of-care diagnosis and clinical applications. While primarily directed towards the analysis of bio-liquids, the lab-on-a-chip devices developed will also prove useful for the analysis of toxic and explosive liquids, as well as gas sensing.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk