Certainty in Just 15 Minutes – Researchers Develop a Graphene Oxide-Based Rapid Test to Detect Infections

© gettyimages/Hinterhaus Productions

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM have joined forces with partners in industry and healthcare to develop a handy graphene oxide-based sensor platform to detect acute infections such as sepsis or the antibodies against the coronavirus within minutes.

The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of detecting infections quickly and accurately to prevent further spread. Researchers at the Fraunhofer IZM in Berlin have been working on the project Graph-POC since April 2018 on a graphene oxide-based sensor platform to rise to precisely these challenges in diagnosing infections. A single drop of blood or saliva is all it takes to perform an accurate analysis. Just a few minutes after the drop is applied to the sensor’s surface, electrical signals convey the test result to the family doctor’s office. This rapid test provides certainty within just 15 minutes to replace the protracted blood work in the lab. It takes the error and guesswork out of diagnosis so the physician can prescribe the appropriate treatment or suitable antibiotics.

Manuel Bäuscher, a scientist at Fraunhofer IZM and sub-project manager at Graph-POC, sees great prospects ahead for these graphene oxide sensors: “We can pivot from the current medical field to also develop in the direction of the point of need; that is, towards environmental technology and the detection of environmental impacts. But of course, the corona application is our first priority.”

Fraunhofer IZM researchers are taking on another challenge to scale the production process up for mass manufacturing: They are looking to apply the graphene oxide coating at the wafer level so that hundreds of chips can be processed at once.

The graphene oxide-based sensors have to be integrated into a plastic carrier and the reliability of the system has to be tested before the rapid tests can be deployed. Although the original project to detect infections is slated to run until spring 2021, the researchers do not expect to be able to verify the sensor for the coronavirus for another year yet. The partners in this project are the Charité, Aptarion Biotech AG, Technische Universität Berlin, MicroDiscovery GmbH and alpha-board GmbH. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Further Information

Find the full press release here.