Scientists have developed a 3D-printed glucose biosensor for use in wearable monitors. The advance could lead to improved glucose monitors for millions of people who suffer from diabetes, said researchers from the Washington State University in the US.
People with diabetes most commonly monitor their disease with glucose meters that require constant finger pricking.
Continuous glucose monitoring systems are an alternative, but they are not cost effective, according to the research published in the journal Analytica Chimica Acta.
Researchers have been working to develop wearable, flexible electronics that can conform to patients' skin and monitor the glucose in body fluids, such as in sweat. To build such sensors, manufacturers have used traditional manufacturing strategies, such as photolithography or screen printing.
While these methods work, they have several drawbacks, including requiring the use of harmful chemicals and expensive cleanroom processing. They also create a lot of waste.
Using 3D printing, the team developed a glucose monitor with much better stability and sensitivity than those manufactured through traditional methods.
The researchers used a method called direct-ink-writing (DIW), that involves printing ‘inks’ out of nozzles to create intricate and precise designs at tiny scales.
They printed out a nanoscale material that is electrically conductive to create flexible electrodes.
The technique allows a precise application of the material, resulting in a uniform surface and fewer defects, which increases the sensor's sensitivity.
The researchers found that their 3D-printed sensors did better at picking up glucose signals than the traditionally produced electrodes. Since it uses 3D printing, the system is also more customisable for the variety of people's biology, researchers said.
"3D printing can enable manufacturing of biosensors tailored specifically to individual patients." - Arda Gozen, Washington State University.
Since the 3-D printing uses only the amount of material needed, there is also less waste in the process than traditional manufacturing methods.
"This can potentially bring down the cost," said Gozen.
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