Innovative Origami-Based Sensitive Sensors

Professor Hossam Haick from the Technion and his team have developed a new high-tech sensor, which can detect and identify different physical and chemical stimuli. The innovative technology uses a conductive ink.

A team of scientists from the Techion, Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa has created a new smart sensor system, which is able to identify and differentiate various stimuli. The innovative technology is based on origami-techniques in combination with a specialized ink, also developed at Technion.

The Innovative Idea behind the Sensor System

The research was first published in Nature Communications under the title “Time-space-resolved origami hierarchical electronics for ultrasensitive detection of physical and chemical stimuli”. It is a collaboration of Professor Hossa Haick from the Technion’s Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering and the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute, and his post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Min Zhang, who is currently associate professor at East China Normal University. As there are worldwide demands for multi-purpose sensing systems for very specific fields, the innovative technology has great potential to be used in applications in medicine, counterterrorism, food safety, environmental monitoring or the “Internet of things” – especially since common sensor systems in this field struggle with disadvantages like high costs.

The researcher’s own challenge was to develop a single system sensitive enough to recognize various stimuli.

“When we think about the human sensory system, we think of a whole that brings all the data to the brain in a format that it understands. That inspired our development, which is meant to concentrate in a different place all the environmental data we want to monitor. It is a multi-purpose sensory system that absorbs the stimuli and distinguishes among them,”

Professor Haick states.

An Origami Inspired Sensor

The developed system is called “origami hierarchical sensor array”. It’s an integrated array of grouped sensors, printed on an object with a special conductive ink. The device is able to sense and detect physical and chemical stimuli like temperature, humidity, light and volatile organic particles, with a high resolution of time and space. It can distinguish between isomers and chiral enantiomers and is so perfect for medical diagnosis while its ability to detect volatile particles is suitable for all areas of testing and monitoring possibly dangerous substances.

A major advantage of the technology is the special ink. Its cost efficiency and the ability of producing it in large quantities make it more efficient than other inks. Furthermore it’s waterproof and attaches itself very tightly to the surface of the object. This enables it to be printed on human skin and nails, like a conductive tattoo.

Professor Haick sums up:

“We can say that our system identifies the ‘fingerprints’ of chemical and physical stimuli and supplies information about them.”

Their target is to make this innovative technology accessible to as much people as possible, especially through its low costs.