Researchers Develop New Method For Making Human-Integrated Electronics

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Researchers develop biomedical sensors that can be integrated inside the human body and can sense biomolecules such as glucose.

Polymer semiconductors are gaining much research attention due to their softness and flexibility. These semiconductors are a plastic material that are converted into semiconductors after doping. These semiconductor materials hold promise for future implantable electronics that can be integrated within the body, including disease detectors and health monitors.

These materials are soft and stretchy, but until now, researchers were not able to give them the ability to sense biochemicals without changing their functionality. To overcome this limitation, Researchers at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) have developed a new approach called “click-to-polymer” or CLIP, which uses a chemical reaction to attach new functional units onto polymer semiconductors.

The researchers developed a polymer glucose monitoring device that can be integrated inside the human body. The results were published in the journal Matter.

“Semiconducting polymers are one of the most promising materials systems for wearable and implantable electronics,” said Asst. Prof. Sihong Wang, who led the research. “But we still need to add more functionality to be able to collect signals and administer therapies. Our method can work broadly to incorporate different types of functional groups, which we hope will lead to far-reaching leaps in the field.”

The researchers used a copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition to add functional units to a polymer. As the reactions occur after the polymer has been made, it does not affect its properties much. 

To demonstrate the effectiveness of their developed device, the researchers attached units that could photo-pattern the polymer, important for designing circuits within the material. Moreover, they added functionality to directly sense biomolecules. Biomolecules such as glucose cause changes to the polymer’s electrical conductance and amplify the signal.

“We hope researchers across the field will use our method to endow even more functionality into this material system and use them to develop the next generation of human-integrated electronics as a key tool in healthcare,” Wang said.


 

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