By Jared Robert Senseman, Editor in Chief
Biosensors made from graphene could soon be used to send back information wirelessly from inside the body, according to Dr. Mona Ebrish.
The use of graphene in biosensors is on the rise, and it’s researchers like Ebrish who are on the front lines of the new nanotechnology.
“My PhD dissertation focused on utilizing a property in graphene called quantum capacitance,” Ebrish said in an interview. “Quantum capacitance is the measure of potential needed to add or remove an electron from a material. Every material has a certain density of states in which electrons can occupy, when you change the potential or the voltage across the material, then the density of those states will change thus the quantum capacitance changes.”
She added that graphene has a unique energy dispersion, which is the relationship between the energy and the space where the electrons are located in the lattice. The dispersion is linear, so a small change in the potential will cause a large change in the quantum capacitance of the graphene.
“We asked how we can utilize this feature to build a wireless sensor for glucose application. I focused on how I can improve the sensor, in terms of how can I make it yield more, be more sensitive, and understand it’s functionalization,” Ebrish said. “Functionalization is basically preparing the surface of the graphene to be sensitive only to the glucose and nothing else, In addition; I studied how can that functionalization chemistry affect the device behavior overall.”
Ultimately, Ebrish’s research could lead to the use of graphene biosensors being used in vivo, or actually inside the body. The biosensors could wirelessly transmit data, resulting in less invasive diagnoses and procedures.
“We found that graphene is a very suitable material for sensing, and it’s definitely compatible with the human body since it’s carbon. The group is still working on that sensor for many other applications.” Ebrish said. “I think in sensing in general, graphene is a suitable material. It’s two dimensional, so it’s very thin. You can incorporate it in a small encapsulation in the bloodstream”
Ebrish’s former team ran into a slight problem with the functionalization process producing hydrogen peroxide due to the use of Glucose oxidase. The hydrogen peroxide eats up the graphene and causes damage, and they believe since it eats up carbon it might also damage the body.
However, Ebrish’s former team is still working on a new functionalization process, and believes the future of graphene in healthcare has potential.
“The study was really fascinating,” she said. “It’s a new class of material. It’s the first 2D material and it doesn’t have a band gap and the band structure is linear, so it has so many wonders about it and it’s just opened up the door to so many other 2d materials to be used across multiple industries.”
Dr. Ebrish is currently working with IBM as an integration engineer, due to a lack of jobs in the graphene industry. However she hopes one day to be able to return to working with the new nanomaterial.
“I was hoping to continue working on graphene but there weren’t many good opportunities available,” she said. “I hope one day more jobs and opportunities in the graphene field will be there.”
Graphene Entrepreneur is a division of the National Graphene Association. The Mission of the NGA is to bring together current and future graphene stakeholders — entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, developers and suppliers, investors, venture capitalists and government agencies — to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products and technologies in the United States.
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