At the University of Birmingham our research leads to new inventions and fuels innovation and business growth.
The urgent need for rapid, early-stage detection of pathogens or disease-indicative biomarkers poses many challenges to the development of rapid and reliable tests or point-of-care (PoC)-diagnostics for human and animal health, food and water safety, and homeland security. Markers released in miniscule amounts (or at early stages of a disease) are undetectable with available biochemical techniques. Currently, no technology exists to measure these compounds with sufficient sensitivity and timeliness at PoC.
In terms of PoC-diagnostics, the golden standard technologies are ELISA, PCR and mass-spectrometry. However, these technologies are limited to laboratory use because they rely on sample purification and sophisticated instruments, are me and labour intensive, expensive and require highly-trained operators. In addition, the sensitivity of these technologies is unsatisfactory for detecting trace levels of biomarkers.
Academics at the University of Birmingham, by an unprecedented combination of methods, have successfully developed lithographically defined, optimised hierarchical electrohydrodynamic (EHD)-SERS-substrates which are considerably more stable than nanoparticle-based systems, offering more degrees of freedom in the design and tuning of structural parameters, to enable reproducible, multiplex, high-SERS-enhancements. The developed novel EHD lithography uses electric field induced instabilities to generate advanced reproducible and tuneable SERSsubstrates. Each of the resulting EHD-based SERS-active platforms demonstrated significant signal enhancement (>108), thus acting as an ideal detection platform. Importantly, each of the EHD-patterned individual structural units yielded a considerable SERS-enhancement enabling each structure to function as an isolated sensor, indispensable for multiplex detection.