Super-Sensitive Measurement Technique Could Aid Advancement in Medical Research, Environmental Monitoring

A new technique for measuring very small objects could pave the way to cheaper, more accurate sensors for use in fields such as gas detection and medical research.

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Researchers at the University of Waterloo discovered that nanoscale devices using electromagnetism would be sufficiently sensitive to establish the mass of viruses a hundred billion times lighter than a strand of human hair.

Medical researchers would finally have a more accurate tool for detecting viruses and bacteria, and that could lead to better clinical diagnosis.

Hassan Askari, Co-Author and a Researcher and an Engineering PhD candidate, Waterloo

The research also revealed that the new technique of measurement – a sensor comprising of a magnetic particle fixed to a miniature resonator plate and a miniature coil – has the potential to produce electricity, which would significantly reduce interference and enhance accuracy.

Electrical voltage would be generated when the plate was vibrated to quickly vary the distance between the stationary coil and the magnetic particle. By measuring the difference in voltage after an object such as gas molecule or a bacteria was introduced to the plate, the sensor would be able to establish that object’s mass.

Furthermore, the sensor can be powered using the voltage itself, enabling wireless transmission of results from clean labs to external computers, thus significantly minimizing interference that influences accuracy.

The concept is very beautiful. If we can optimize the design, the hope is we can develop a self-powered mass sensor.

Hassan Askari, Co-Author and a Researcher and an Engineering PhD candidate, Waterloo

Research details have been published in the journal Measurement.

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