Severo Ochoa Programme 2014-2018 RESEARCH AREAS: LIFE

Life is a broad term used to denote ICN2 research in health, food safety and the environment. Specifically, we harness the insights gleaned at the nanoscale to develop super sensitive devices capable of detecting analytes at very low concentrations, in increasingly small samples and with ever shorter turnaround times.

This enables the early detection of illnesses, health risks and pollution, which vastly improves the chances of a successful outcome. The same insights are also used to optimise actions in these areas, all view to making the devices environmentally-friendly, portable and low-cost. This in turn opens them up to users in remote locations and developing economies.

Among the specific research outcomes of the Severo Ochoa programme are:

The ICN2 has developed a cost-effective, totally green graphene patterning technology for use in electronic devices in general, nanosensors in particular.

Patterning refers to the process by which graphene can be added to different raw materials (i.e. “nanopaper” or nitrocellulose) to obtain a material with unique electronic and/or optical properties that enable the detection and quantification of analytes of interest in biosensing (e.g. chemical compounds like phenols and polyphenols, proteins, and even bacteria).

This novel technology allows cost-effective patterning onto a variety of substrates including paper and plastic, which is crucial to the production of low-cost sensors and biosensors.

The ICN2 has developed a low-cost sensor device to monitor gluten levels in celiac patients. Based on nanophotonics , the biosensor enables fast and label-free quantification of gluten immunogenic peptides, making it a highly effective means of dietary control for celiac patients.

This line of research forms part of the PhD thesis “Nanoplasmonic biosensors for clinical diagnosis at the point-of-care” by Dr María Aznar Soler, who was awarded one of CERCA’s 2015 Pioneer Prizes for researchers whose doctoral thesis shows clear commercial potential.