Dübendorf ZH – Empa scientists have developed an analytic chip that can determine physiological parameters without puncturing the skin. The 3D-printed chips will even be biodegradable in the future.

Medical diagnostics can already measure physiological parameters in our blood. But now, researchers at the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Dübendorf have worked with colleagues in Canada to develop a new analytic device that lies on the skin surface and measures metabolic parameters such as the concentration of calcium, potassium and ammonium ions. The skin sensor sends its results wirelessly to a computer for further data processing.

Particularly special about the new analytic chip is that it is made of nanocellulose – an inexpensive, renewable raw material, which can be obtained for example from wood, explains Empa. The researchers used nanocellulose as an "ink" in the 3D printing process to produce the chips. The ink was also mixed with silver nanowires.

The sensor can reliably measure metabolic parameters, but the researchers are already working on a newer version without silver particles. "In the future, we want to replace the silver particles with another conductive material, for example on the basis of carbon compounds," explained Empa researcher Gilberto Siqueira. This would make the medical nanocellulose sensor not only biocompatible, but also completely biodegradable.

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