There have been some interesting developments in the application of nanotechnology and related Micro/Nano Electro-Mechanical Systems. Diabetes has been a growing medical issue/problem for a number of years. In many cases, the disease becomes fairly advanced before there is any detection of it. The typical means of detecting the disease is a glucose test, which has required small samples of blood. Researchers at the University of Houston have developed an interesting twist. They have developed a non-invasive means of testing by employing a specially designed contact lens that can sample chemicals in tears.
According to their publication [Ref. 1], glucose can be sensed optically though surface-enhanced Raman scattering spectroscopy. This latest development is created by multiple layers of gold nanowires built on a gold film using solvent-assisted nanotransfer printing. The device structure is optimized to use the Raman scattering to detect small molecular samples. The device improves the sensing properties by creating narrow gaps with the nanostructure that intensifies the Raman signal. At this time there is one caution. While glucose is present in tears, work needs to be done to develop a correlation with blood glucose levels.
A key element in this work is that being able to monitor chemicals in tears can be the start of creating a device that can monitor various trace chemicals that are linked to a number of physical markers identified and correlated with conditions that require medical treatment or intervention.
There are a number of companies that are developing various medical devices that use micro-channels to sample fluids and provide an analysis of the materials found in almost real-time. This improved sampling is providing better information for medical personnel at a much more rapid pace that conventional tests. There is also work being done at various universities that is focusing on novel sensors to provide improved information.
Nanotechnology for cancer treatment has been in the news for years with some significant successes. The creation of other medical applications could result in significant breakthroughs for many other areas of medicine.
Costs of devices: Nanotechnology is still in the early stages of development. As the technology matures, there will be a focus on how to reduce costs. In many cases, this will be the equivalent of comparing apples and oranges. In the 1980s, the nuclear industry developed a tool for evaluating the representative cost of different approaches to various elements required for power plants. This technique, Cost of Ownership, was refined by the semiconductor industry in the 1990s in order to evaluate totally different technologies that could be employed. This is mentioned because it appears that the nanotechnology industry is starting to evaluate some of the manufacturing options. The evidence for this is the increase in the number of citations of work done in this area in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
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