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‘Lab on a Chip’ Paves Way for Use of Portable Spectrometer in Biomedical Analysis

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 24 Oct 2022
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Image: Light-analyzing ‘lab on a chip’ opens door to widespread use of portable spectrometers (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)
Image: Light-analyzing ‘lab on a chip’ opens door to widespread use of portable spectrometers (Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)

Scientists have developed a better tool to measure light, contributing to a field known as optical spectrometry and resulting in a powerful, ultra-tiny spectrometer that fits on a microchip and is operated using artificial intelligence (AI). Traditional spectrometers require bulky optical and mechanical components, whereas the new device could fit on the end of a human hair. The research involved a comparatively new class of super-thin materials known as two-dimensional semiconductors, and the upshot is a proof of concept for a spectrometer that could be readily incorporated into a variety of technologies – including biomedical analyzers, among others.

The new research by scientists at Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR, USA) and Aalto University (Espoo, Finland) suggests those components can be replaced with novel semiconductor materials and AI, allowing spectrometers to be dramatically scaled down in size from the current smallest ones, which are about the size of a grape. The device is 100% electrically controllable regarding the colors of light it absorbs, which gives it massive potential for scalability and widespread usability, the researchers say. In medicine, spectrometers are already being tested for their ability to identify subtle changes in human tissue such as the difference between tumors and healthy tissue.

“We’ve demonstrated a way of building spectrometers that are far more miniature than what is typically used today,” said Ethan Minot, a professor of physics in the OSU College of Science. “Spectrometers measure the strength of light at different wavelengths and are super useful in lots of industries and all fields of science for identifying samples and characterizing materials. It’s exciting that our spectrometer opens up possibilities for all sorts of new everyday gadgets, and instruments to do new science as well.”

“Our spectrometer does not require assembling separate optical and mechanical components or array designs to disperse and filter light,” said Hoon Hahn Yoon, Aalto University. “Moreover, it can achieve a high resolution comparable to benchtop systems but in a much smaller package.”

Related Links:
Oregon State University
Aalto University

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