Nanosensor Development To Be Boosted By Grant From National Science Foundation

The Center for Nano-, Bio-, and Info-Technology Sensors and Systems at the University of Arkansas will benefit from a recent $9 million National Science Foundation grant to the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority. The university portion of the grant will allow researchers to create collaborative infrastructure for the design of arrays of nanosensors that can be integrated with wireless systems and fabricated with a specialized, yet low-cost, nanofabrication technology.

"This grant will enable our center to develop wireless sensors and networking technologies that will have a major impact on people and the way they live," said Vijay Varadan, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering. "For example, we will develop wearable chemical and biological hazard sensors for firefighters, police and security personnel. In addition, we will develop biosensors for human physiological and ambulatory monitoring, and the detection of pathogens in clinical, food, agricultural and environmental samples. These are only a few examples of the kind of devices our center will create."

Researchers at the University of Arkansas center have already developed and tested two similar but slightly different biosensors that can measure important physiological signs. Integrated into "smart" fabrics - garments with wireless technology - these sensors will monitor a patient's respiration rate and body temperature in real time and thus provide point-of-care diagnostics to health-care professionals and greater freedom for patients.

The $9 million grant, made through the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, will establish the Arkansas ASSET Initiative (Advancing and Supporting Science, Engineering and Technology), which is designed to boost progress in two scientific research areas developing in Arkansas: plant-based bioproduction and wireless nano-, bio- and info-technology sensors. Both projects have potential for major economic development as well as regional and national commercial significance.

Each project has significant and integrated research on the campuses of Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, in addition to the University of Arkansas. As a co-principal investigator, Varadan will direct the wireless sensors project. Gail McClure, vice president of the Arkansas Science & Technology Authority, said that ASSET is the first strongly integrated, multi-university collaboration of three of the four graduate research institutions in Arkansas.

The Arkansas Science & Technology Authority was created by statute in 1983 with the mission to bring the benefits of science and advanced technology to the people and state of Arkansas. This mission is addressed by strategies to promote scientific research, technology development, business innovation, and math, science and engineering education.

Varadan holds the College of Engineering's Twenty-First Century Endowed Chair in Nano- and Bio-Technologies and Medicine and the college's Chair in Microelectronics and High Density Electronics. In addition to his position as director of the above center, he directs the university's High Density Electronics Center. Varadan is also a professor of neurosurgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

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