Electrochemical sensors: From probes to integrated smart systems
Killard, A. (2011) Electrochemical sensors: From probes to integrated smart systems. In: Eirelec '11: Electrochemistry - The Future?, Adare, Co. Limerick, Ireland, 16th to 18th May 2011.
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The emergence of the field of electroanalytical chemistry has transformed measurement science. Early application of electrochemical probes for simple ionic species has given way to more sophisticated measurements involving further chemo-selective and bio-selective materials. Such sensors have gone on to transform the measurement and monitoring of human disease. However, to succeed in this transformation, electrochemical sensor electrodes have had to evolve in various ways. Most notably, they have had to shrink in size from those cumbersome early probes. The discovery of the microelectrode was a major step in lateral miniaturisation. Vertical miniaturisation has been most effectively achieved by the creation of the printed electrode which allowed fabrication of electrochemical sensors in a planar configuration while being amenable to low cost, mass production. Such printed sensors have been with us now for some 20 years and again changed the paradigm of electrochemical sensor design and application. However, these electrodes have typically been stand-alone components that have been coupled to silicon-based electronics. As the demand for smaller, faster, cheaper and smarter automated technology continues into the 21st Century, this is also reflected in the development of electrochemical sensors. Increasingly, these are being integrated with more complex systems involving microfluidic handling and sample processing, as well as increasing intelligence and device autonomy. Printed electrochemical sensors lend themselves extremely well to the emerging field of printed, organic electronics as they can be readily integrated with such technology both physically and functionally. This affords the opportunity to combine sensing measurements with other functions such as actuation, control logic, visual display and wired or wireless communications on self-powered polymer-based ‘integrated smart systems’. Much of our work has been on the development of materials that are compatible with emerging print fabrication technologies such as inkjet printing. We illustrate the development of such electrode materials and fabrication processes and investigate their application in a range of areas including industrial monitoring, clinical and biomedical analysis. Finally, we look at ongoing work in the area of smart systems integration in the development of diagnostic devices.