Tag Archives: Jeannie Kever

Glucose-sensing contact lens invented by US and Korean researchers

Blood tests for glucose levels may one day be a feature of the past according to an Oct. 3, 2016 news item on ScienceDaily,

Blood testing is the standard option for checking glucose levels, but a new technology could allow non-invasive testing via a contact lens that samples glucose levels in tears.

“There’s no noninvasive method to do this,” said Wei-Chuan Shih, a researcher with the University of Houston [UH] who worked with colleagues at UH and in Korea to develop the project, described in the high-impact journal Advanced Materials. “It always requires a blood draw. This is unfortunately the state of the art.”

A Sept. 27, 2016 UH news release (also on EurekAlert) by Jeannie Kever, which originated the news item, describes the proposed technology,

… glucose is a good target for optical sensing, and especially for what is known as surface-enhanced Raman scattering spectroscopy [also known as surface-enhanced Raman scattering or surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, and SERS], said Shih, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering whose lab, the NanoBioPhotonics Group, works on optical biosensing enabled by nanoplasmonics.

This is an alternative approach, in contrast to a Raman spectroscopy-based noninvasive glucose sensor Shih developed as a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He holds two patents for technologies related to directly probing skin tissue using laser light to extract information about glucose concentrations.

The paper describes the development of a tiny device, built from multiple layers of gold nanowires stacked on top of a gold film and produced using solvent-assisted nanotransfer printing, which optimized the use of surface-enhanced Raman scattering to take advantage of the technique’s ability to detect small molecular samples.

Surface-enhanced Raman scattering – named for Indian physicist C.V. Raman [Raman scattering; SERS history begins in 1973 according to its Wikipedia entry], who discovered the effect in 1928 – uses information about how light interacts with a material to determine properties of the molecules that make up the material.

The device enhances the sensing properties of the technique by creating “hot spots,” or narrow gaps within the nanostructure which intensified the Raman signal, the researchers said.

Researchers created the glucose sensing contact lens to demonstrate the versatility of the technology. The contact lens concept isn’t unheard of – Google has submitted a patent for a multi-sensor contact lens, which the company says can also detect glucose levels in tears – but the researchers say this technology would also have a number of other applications.

“It should be noted that glucose is present not only in the blood but also in tears, and thus accurate monitoring of the glucose level in human tears by employing a contact-lens-type sensor can be an alternative approach for noninvasive glucose monitoring,” the researchers wrote.

“Everyone knows tears have a lot to mine,” Shih said. “The question is, whether you have a detector that is capable of mining it, and how significant is it for real diagnostics.”

In addition to Shih, authors on the paper include Yeon Sik Jung, Jae Won Jeong and Kwang-Min Baek, all with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Seung Yong Lee of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, and Md Masud Parvez Arnob of UH.

Although non-invasive glucose sensing is just one potential application of the technology, Shih said it provided a good way to prove the technology. “It’s one of the grand challenges to be solved,” he said. “It’s a needle in a haystack challenge.”

Scientists know that glucose is present in tears, but Shih said how tear glucose levels correlate with blood glucose levels hasn’t been established. The more important finding, he said, is that the structure is an effective mechanism for using surface-enhanced Raman scattering spectroscopy.

Although traditional nanofabrication techniques rely on a hard substrate – usually glass or a silicon wafer – Shih said researchers wanted a flexible nanostructure, which would be more suited to wearable electronics. The layered nanoarray was produced on a hard substrate but lifted off and printed onto a soft contact, he said.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Wafer Scale Phase-Engineered 1T- and 2H-MoSe2/Mo Core–Shell 3D-Hierarchical Nanostructures toward Efficient Electrocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution Reaction by Yindong Qu, Henry Medina, Sheng-Wen Wang, Yi-Chung Wang, Chia-Wei Chen, Teng-Yu Su, Arumugam Manikandan, Kuangye Wang, Yu-Chuan Shih, Je-Wei Chang, Hao-Chung Kuo, Chi-Yung Lee, Shih-Yuan Lu, Guozhen Shen, Zhiming M. Wang, and Yu-Lun Chueh. Advanced Materials DOI: 10.1002/adma.201602697 Version of Record online: 26 SEP 2016

© 2016 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This paper is behind a paywall.

Better and greener oil recovery

A June 27, 2016 news item on phys.org describes research on achieving better oil recovery,

As oil producers struggle to adapt to lower prices, getting as much oil as possible out of every well has become even more important, despite concerns from nearby residents that some chemicals used to boost production may pollute underground water resources.

Researchers from the University of Houston have reported the discovery of a nanotechnology-based solution that could address both issues – achieving 15 percent tertiary oil recovery at low cost, without the large volume of chemicals used in most commercial fluids.

A June 27, 2016 University of Houston news release (also on EurekAlert) by Jeannie Kever, which originated the news item, provides more detail,

The solution – graphene-based Janus amphiphilic nanosheets – is effective at a concentration of just 0.01 percent, meeting or exceeding the performance of both conventional and other nanotechnology-based fluids, said Zhifeng Ren, MD Anderson Chair professor of physics. Janus nanoparticles have at least two physical properties, allowing different chemical reactions on the same particle.

The low concentration and the high efficiency in boosting tertiary oil recovery make the nanofluid both more environmentally friendly and less expensive than options now on the market, said Ren, who also is a principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH. He is lead author on a paper describing the work, published June 27 [2016] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our results provide a novel nanofluid flooding method for tertiary oil recovery that is comparable to the sophisticated chemical methods,” they wrote. “We anticipate that this work will bring simple nanofluid flooding at low concentration to the stage of oilfield practice, which could result in oil being recovered in a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective manner.”

In addition to Ren, researchers involved with the project include Ching-Wu “Paul” Chu, chief scientist at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH; graduate students Dan Luo and Yuan Liu; researchers Feng Wang and Feng Cao; Richard C. Willson, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; and Jingyi Zhu, Xiaogang Li and Zhaozhong Yang, all of Southwest Petroleum University in Chengdu, China.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates as much as 75 percent of recoverable reserves may be left after producers capture hydrocarbons that naturally rise to the surface or are pumped out mechanically, followed by a secondary recovery process using water or gas injection.

Traditional “tertiary” recovery involves injecting a chemical mix into the well and can recover between 10 percent and 20 percent, according to the authors.

But the large volume of chemicals used in tertiary oil recovery has raised concerns about potential environmental damage.

“Obviously simple nanofluid flooding (containing only nanoparticles) at low concentration (0.01 wt% or less) shows the greatest potential from the environmental and economic perspective,” the researchers wrote.

Previously developed simple nanofluids recover less than 5 percent of the oil when used at a 0.01 percent concentration, they reported. That forces oil producers to choose between a higher nanoparticle concentration – adding to the cost – or mixing with polymers or surfactants.

In contrast, they describe recovering 15.2 percent of the oil using their new and simple nanofluid at that concentration – comparable to chemical methods and about three times more efficient than other nanofluids.

Dan Luo, a UH graduate student and first author on the paper, said when the graphene-based fluid meets with the brine/oil mixture in the reservoir, the nanosheets in the fluid spontaneously go to the interface, reducing interfacial tension and helping the oil flow toward the production well.

Ren said the solution works in a completely new way.

“When it is injected, the solution helps detach the oil from the rock surface,” he said. Under certain hydrodynamic conditions, the graphene-based fluid forms a strong elastic and recoverable film at the oil and water interface, instead of forming an emulsion, he said.

Researchers said the difference is due to the asymmetric property of the 2-dimensional material. Nanoparticles are usually either hydrophobic – water-repelling, like oil – or hydrophilic, water-like, said Feng Wang, a post-doctoral researcher who shared first author-duties with Luo.

“Ours is both,” he said. “Ours is Janus and also strictly amphiphilic.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Nanofluid of graphene-based amphiphilic Janus nanosheets for tertiary or enhanced oil recovery: High performance at low concentration by Dan Luo, Feng Wang, Jingyi Zhu, Feng Cao, Yuan Liu, Xiaogang Li, Richard C. Willson, Zhaozhong Yang, Ching-Wu Chu, and Zhifeng Ren. PNAS 2016 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608135113 published ahead of print June 27, 2016,

This paper is behind a paywall.

A fatigue-free stretchable conductor for foldable electronics

There’s been a lot of talk about foldable, stretchable, and/or bendable electronics, which is exciting in itself but I find this work on developing a fatigue-free conductor particularly intriguing. After all, who hasn’t purchased something that stretches, folds, etc. only to find that it becomes ‘fatigued’ and is now ‘stretched out’.

A Sept. 23, 2015 news item on Azonano describes the new conductors,

Researchers have discovered a new stretchable, transparent conductor that can be folded or stretched and released, resulting in a large curvature or a significant strain, at least 10,000 times without showing signs of fatigue.

This is a crucial step in creating a new generation of foldable electronics – think a flat-screen television that can be rolled up for easy portability – and implantable medical devices. The work, published Monday [Sept. 21, 2015] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pairs gold nanomesh with a stretchable substrate made with polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS.

The research is the result of an international collaboration including the University of Houston (US), Harvard University (US), Methodist Research Institute (US), Zhengzhou University (China), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL; US).

A Sept. 22, 2015 University of Houston news release by Jeannie Kever, which originated the news item, describes this -fatigue-free material in more detail,

The substrate is stretched before the gold nanomesh is placed on it – a process known as “prestretching” – and the material showed no sign of fatigue when cyclically stretched to a strain of more than 50 percent.

The gold nanomesh also proved conducive to cell growth, indicating it is a good material for implantable medical devices.

Fatigue is a common problem for researchers trying to develop a flexible, transparent conductor, making many materials that have good electrical conductivity, flexibility and transparency – all three are needed for foldable electronics – wear out too quickly to be practical, said Zhifeng Ren, a physicist at the University of Houston and principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity, who was the lead author for the paper.

The new material, produced by grain boundary lithography, solves that problem, he said.

In addition to Ren, other researchers on the project included Chuan Fei Guo and Ching-Wu “Paul” Chu, both from UH; Zhigang Suo, Qihan Liu and Yecheng Wang, all from Harvard University, and Guohui Wang and Zhengzheng Shi, both from the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

In materials science, “fatigue” is used to describe the structural damage to a material caused by repeated movement or pressure, known as “strain cycling.” Bend a material enough times, and it becomes damaged or breaks.    That means the materials aren’t durable enough for consumer electronics or biomedical devices.

“Metallic materials often exhibit high cycle fatigue, and fatigue has been a deadly disease for metals,” the researchers wrote.

“We weaken the constraint of the substrate by making the interface between the Au (gold) nanomesh and PDMS slippery, and expect the Au nanomesh to achieve superstretchability and high fatigue resistance,” they wrote in the paper. “Free of fatigue here means that both the structure and the resistance do not change or have little change after many strain cycles.”

As a result, they reported, “the Au nanomesh does not exhibit strain fatigue when it is stretched to 50 percent for 10,000 cycles.”

Many applications require a less dramatic stretch – and many materials break with far less stretching – so the combination of a sufficiently large range for stretching and the ability to avoid fatigue over thousands of cycles indicates a material that would remain productive over a long period of time, Ren said.

The grain boundary lithography involved a bilayer lift-off metallization process, which included an indium oxide mask layer and a silicon oxide sacrificial layer and offers good control over the dimensions of the mesh structure.

The researchers used mouse embryonic fibroblast cells to determine biocompatibility; that, along with the fact that the stretchability of gold nanomesh on a slippery substrate resembles the bioenvironment of tissue or organ surfaces, suggest the nanomesh “might be implanted in the body as a pacemaker electrode, a connection to nerve endings or the central nervous system, a beating heart, and so on,” they wrote.

Here’s a link to and citation for the paper,

Fatigue-free, superstretchable, transparent, and biocompatible metal electrodes by Chuan Fei Guo, Qihan Liu, Guohui Wang, Yecheng Wang, Zhengzheng Shi, Zhigang Suo, Ching-Wu Chu, and Zhifeng Ren. PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)  doi: 10.1073/pnas.1516873112 Published online Sept. 21, 2015

This paper appears to be open access.