Advanced sensing technologies focusses on sensor development for applications in different sectors, ranging from healthcare towards food and environmental applications. With healthcare materials, functional materials towards nanomedicine and tissue engineering applications are addressed.
The ability to sense has become over the past years more and more essential to be able to develop smart healthcare applications or to enable smart manufacturing in the framework of industry 4.0. As such, there is a great need for innovative sensing techniques as well as innovative application of sensors. Our researchers enable the next generation of sensing technologies with a focus on agriculture/food industry, environment and health monitoring. Our multidisciplinary research team consists of material physicists, chemists and engineers. Within the process of innovation our team focuses on basic sensor research and applied sensor development. Our main mission is to use our findings within basic research and use them for the development of low-cost sensor technologies and applications. Additionally, we are actively involved with academic partners, industrial collaborators, hospitals, and government agencies in a diverse array of projects. With healthcare materials, functional biomaterials towards nanomedicine and tissue engineering applications are addressed.
Modern medical and biological devices require surfaces that are not only highly biocompatible and protective but in which one can encode several smart medical functions such as anti-bacterial or anti-inflammatory properties, drug elution/drug delivery, tissue repair functions, smart sensing and others. Integration of such functions with biosurfaces and biointerfaces requires engineering on nanoscale inducing the chemical functionalization and biomolecular grafting. These techniques together with specific device fabrication routes including 2D and 3D design are studied at IMOMEC as a part of the basic research activities or in collaboration with several industrial and academic partners from medical areas. Examples of smart biosurfaces are novel generation of stents with particular biomolecules bound to the surfaces, medical implants, anti-bacterial coatings, nanoparticles for drug delivery and sensing etc. In most applications we use carbon-based coatings with emphasis on nanocrystalline diamond that is highly biocompatible, optically transparent, mechanically, biologically and chemically resistant and allows by its simple carbon chemistry immobilization of a range of suitable biomolecules.
Within imo-imomec, nano(bio)materials for drug delivery, bioimaging and theranostics are addressed. Functionalized nanoparticles that are sensitive to single or multiple stimuli (exogenous such as light, temperature and endogenous triggers such as pH, enzymes, ROS, GSH etc.,) are developed. Responsive nanocarriers designed to sense the local environment offer an elegant route to sense the complex biological microenvironments and allow for detection and targeted therapy at the same time.
The need for responsive materials is also addressed within the context of smart hydrogel materials that can be used for tissue engineering or drug delivery applications. Cells are known for their extensive interaction with the extracellular environment. By combining specific chemistries and building blocks, the resulting soft materials can be tuned to accommodate the specific needs of cells and tissues with respect to a given application.
We have substantial expertise in the use of either biomolecules or molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) as receptors to detect target molecules in different complex media. When considering biomolecules, IMO-IMOMEC has a track record in the selective and site-specific modification of nanobodies. This class of protein-based receptors is derived from heavy-chain antibodies, but offers some key advantages over their natural counterparts. Nanobodies exhibit increased stability and are encoded by a single gene which facilitates their modification and expression in biotechnological context. MIPs on the other hand are synthetic receptors that can be used as an alternative to natural receptors such as antibodies, enzymes, cells etc. You can compare its technology with the unique matching of a lock and its key. Because a MIP is engineered to adhere to one specific analyte, it can act as a selective and highly sensitive sensor relevant to food, health, and environmental safety. MIP-based sensors can for example be used in- or atline, to detect extremely low concentrations of target species to monitor process parameters or to detect contaminants in the supply line e.g., and waste streams and to control the quality of the raw materials and products in the food industry e.g., to detect agents such as peptides in milk, remaining pesticides in water used for the cleaning of vegetables or hormones in biological samples.
The development of advanced diagnostic systems for screening for example the presence of various molecules in aqueous solutions require adequate readout technology. For this we aim for the development of devices which can process the signals of sensors with sufficient precision and speed in order to translate each impedance, thermal or optical based (bio)sensor, into a fully functional point-of-care system. This work involves research towards the hardware and software of the electronic read-out in order to obtain a point-of-care system. Next, our researchers work on dedicated data processing algorithms which enable state of the art diagnostic systems.
This research activity is mostly experimental and at the intersection between fluid dynamics, biology and microtechnology. It focuses on the translation of biosensing concepts into microfluidic or mesofluidic systems, using our expertise in advanced microfabrication techniques for polymers, glass, diamond and silicon. Novel surface functionalization approaches are continuously developed in combination with microfluidics technology towards miniaturized and or multi-analyte sensing.
The MITICS project will interface living systems with modern microelectronics to create major breakthroughs, notably in healthcare.
The Interreg Euregio Maas-Rhine project Food Screening EMR aims at supporting local SMEs in the transition to a future-proof farming industry.
The WearIT4COVID partners aim to optimize their system for COVID-19 patients specifically and perform clinical pilot testing at TRL6/7.
A recently developed sensor technology based on synthetic receptors and thermal resistance measurements offers a solution for a shorter turnaround time.
WearIT4Health aims to develop an innovative, wearable multisensor for monitoring hospitalised patients by means of continuous measurement of parameters.
'Personal regenerative medicine' is a new form of medicine in which doctors treat patients by building new skin or an organ from cultured cells.