The researchers say that the demonstrator paves the way to small-sized and low-cost detection systems for agriculture, healthcare and lifestyle applications, food quality monitoring and water management.
The ion sensor solution is a generic platform that can be tailored towards specific applications. It enables efficient and low-cost monitoring, such as monitoring of nutrient concentrations in surface and waste water, both for agricultural applications and water quality. In the healthcare and lifestyle applications, it provides disposable point-of-care solutions, or conformable solutions for integration into patches. Depending on the application and the form factor, it can be mass produced through microfabrication or through screen-printing on inexpensive substrates such as glass or foil. As compared to commercial ion sensors, this bring a unique advantage in terms of low cost manufacturability, and size of the solution. By changing the selective membranes on the electrodes, the sensor can be adopted to detect other ions.
The prototype shown in this demonstration is a handheld device that integrates a single-chip sensor with different electrodes that detect pH levels in a range from 2 to 10 at a 0.1 pH accuracy. For the chemical elements chloride (Cl ¯), sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and nitrate (NO 3¯) - ranging from 10 -4 M to 1 M ions - the sensor detects at a 10% accuracy. Benchmarked against other available single-ion sensors, imec's prototype demonstrated comparable sensitivity and accuracy for a versatile multiple-ion solution.
“With small autonomous smart sensors that adapt to and wirelessly communicate with the environment and each other, imec aims to develop the building blocks that enable an Intuitive Internet of Things,” stated Kathleen Phillips, programme director for perceptive systems at imec. “Our scientists and engineers have reached an important breakthrough demonstrating the capabilities of our technology with this versatile single-chip sensor. As we continue to improve our sensor platform, develop sensors for other ions, integrate more sensors into a single system, and extend