Function boost for polymer sensor chips

August 05, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Function boost for polymer sensor chips
A 'click-to-polymer' process developed at the University of Chicago adds biosensor chemicals to polymer semiconductors for flexible plastic chip development

Researchers in the US have developed a technique to add chemical sensing to polymer semiconductors.

The team at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) have developed a technique it calls “click-to-polymer” (CLIP) with a chemical reaction to attach new functional units onto polymer semiconductors. Using the new technique, researchers developed a polymer glucose monitoring device, demonstrating the possible applications of CLIP in human-integrated electronics.

“Semiconducting polymers are one of the most promising materials systems for wearable and implantable electronics,” said Assistant Professor Sihong Wang, who led the research. “But we still need to add more functionality to be able to collect signals and administer therapies. Our method can work broadly to incorporate different types of functional groups, which we hope will lead to far-reaching leaps in the field.”

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The CLIP method uses a copper-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition to add functional units to a polymer that has already been built. Because this “click reaction” happens after the polymer is created, it does not affect its initial properties much. The reaction can also be used in both bulk materials and on the surface for different semiconductor processes which is a key requirement.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of CLIP, the researchers attached units that could photo-pattern the polymer, important for designing circuits within the material. They also added functionality to directly sense biomolecules. Their biomolecule sensor used a glucose oxidase enzyme to detect glucose, which then causes changes to the polymer’s electrical conductance and amplifies the signal.

Now the group is looking at other bio-active and biocompatible functions. “We hope researchers across the field will use our method to endow even more functionality into this material system and use them to develop the next generation of human-integrated electronics as a key tool in healthcare,” said Wang.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2021.07.013pme.uchicago.edu/

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