A New Wrinkle in Biosensors

Point-of-care biosensors that can diagnose both infectious and noninfectious diseases are crucial for the advancement of healthcare globally, especially if they can offer fast and affordable service. New technologies, like wrinkled electrodes, could be a breakthrough for health management.

McMaster Researcher


Gabardo, C. M., Hosseini, A., & Soleymani, L. (2016). A New Wrinkle in Biosensors: Wrinkled electrodes could be a breakthrough for lab-on-a-chip devices. IEEE Nanotechnology Magazine,10(2), 6-18. Retrieved: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7474025/

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What is this research about?

Lab-on-a-chip (LOC) biosensors detect and analyse specific biological components, such as DNA, proteins, polysaccharides (e.g. starch, glycogen), and lipids (e.g. fats). These devices replicate functions typically performed in a lab and combine them into a single, compact platform, such as home pregnancy tests and blood sugar monitors. This allows tests to be completed on smaller samples with cheaper materials, and without the need of highly trained technicians and expensive laboratory equipment. Thus, point-of-care (POC) biosensing devices offer efficient, accessible, and affordable options for health management, making them crucial for the continued advancement of healthcare.
To further boost the development of high-functioning and cost-effective LOC biosensors, researchers have begun using a new method known as ‘wrinkling.’ Wrinkling occurs naturally throughout nature and can also be seen when sheets of various types of material become compressed, causing the sheets to reshape into folds, creases, or ridges. Wrinkling patterns are unpredictable, so researchers are focusing on anticipating and controlling the patterns at the micro and nano scale so that process can be used to improve the functionality of POC biosensors.

What did the researchers do?

To alleviate the demands of the complex and expensive needs of POC biosensor engineering, the research team developed a new rapid-prototyping process using xurography (vinyl craft cutting) and heat-induced miniaturization methods to create tall, three-dimensional wrinkled microelectrodes (tiny electrical conductors).

  • Gold films of various thicknesses were used to study the macro and microscopic structure of wrinkled materials
  • Wrinkled electrodes were evaluated to determine if they met the requirements of electrical biosensor development
  • Electrochemical techniques were used to assess the active surface area of the gold electrode 
  • The process was assessed for its applicability to creating practical devices

The wrinkled electrode was compared to a planar one to assess its efficiency in breaking down cells (i.e. cell lysis), voltage requirements, magnetic force, and its potential use in detecting DNA.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers show that optimized three-dimensional microelectrodes are more efficient than flat electrodes. Wrinkled microelectrodes have further advantages in terms of their physical, mechanical, electrical, and chemical properties compared to non-wrinkled electrodes.
The creation of wrinkled electrodes can be done quickly using the new rapid-prototyping method, cutting the manufacturing time down to only a few hours. The researchers conclude that the new prototyping method can be used to efficiently create several components essential to POC biosensors, including cell lysis, magnetic manipulation, and DNA-detecting devices.

How can you use this research?

The research team expects that this new method of fabrication will expedite the research and development of biosensing devices now and in the future, helping to provide fast and affordable healthcare services. Rapid prototyping may also lead to reducing the time needed for reaching manufacturing scale-up by cutting the time it takes to go from design to device.

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Research funding

June 24, 2016

This project has received a large research grant of $120,000 plus $250,000 over three years. Leyla Soleymani is part of a group of 75 people from McMaster awarded $15.7 million for research:

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