Researchers in Germany are developing an electronic sensor based on graphene oxide to detect bacterial and viral infections such as Covid-19 antibodies in just 15 minutes.
The team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (IZM) in Berlin have been working on the Graph-POC project since April 2018 on a graphene oxide based sensor platform.
This uses a single drop of blood or saliva for an analysis in 15 minutes using a 3D structure of graphene flakes rather than the 2D monolayers used in other sensors. This 3D structure increases the measuring surface and the accuracy of measurements.
“We can pivot from the current medical field to also develop in the direction of the point of need; that is, towards environmental technology and the detection of environmental impacts. But of course the corona application is our first priority,” said, scientist at Fraunhofer IZM and sub-project manager at Graph-POC.
The test can be set up to detect antibodies that are present after a patient has recovered from an infection. Fraunhofer IZM researchers are now focusing on this application to detect earlier infections with the Covid-19 virus, which can help with efforts to trace how the infection has spread.
Capture molecules placed on the surface of the graphene-based sensor can detect specific biomarkers for Covid-19 antibodies and differential measurements of biomarkers’ concentration determine if an infection is present.
The graphene oxide-based sensors have to be integrated into a plastic carrier and the reliability of the system has to be tested before the rapid tests can be deployed. Although the original project to detect infections is slated to run until the spring of 2021, the researchers do not expect to be able to verify the sensor for Covid-19 for another year.
The sensitivity of the 3D array graphene oxide could open up further applications, for example, to detect carbon monoxide or acetone at room temperature rather than requiring heating. The graphene oxide sensor reacts at lower temperatures when metal oxides bond with its sensitive surface.
The team at Fraunhofer IZM also looking at ramping the technology for volume production. They are looking to apply the graphene oxide coating at the wafer level so that hundreds of chips can be processed at once.
The partners in this project are the Charité, Aptarion Biotech AG, Technische Universität Berlin, MicroDiscovery GmbH and alpha-board GmbH. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).