Two novel micron-sized devices recently developed by Sandia researchers could mean the elimination of blood drawing by diabetes patients to test glucose levels or by medical personnel to determine if someone is having a heart attack. Test results would be instantaneous.
The two operate similarly by penetrating painlessly into the skin. Tiny needles — arranged in varying numbers on a small patch — can measure molecules inside the body, eliminating the need to withdraw blood from a patient.
One platform is ElectroNeedles, micron-sized electrodes capable of measuring molecules such as glucose that can donate or accept electrons (redox behavior). The other is µPosts, micron-sized posts that have the potential of painlessly measuring proteins and other macromolecules, including protein markers released during a heart attack, using optical measurements. The platforms complement each other and create a diagnostic suite capable of detecting many important biological markers.
“The tiny ElectroNeedles, expected to be constructed of cheap throw-away plastic, will not only make glucose testing simple and painless, but significantly cut the diagnostics time involved in protein analysis,” says Jeb Flemming (1744), project lead. “Because the analysis is done inside the body, the need to withdraw body fluid is eliminated, and because the needles are so small the measurements are painless.”
Jeb and fellow researchers David Ingersoll (2521) and Carrie Schmidt (1763) came up with the idea for the ElectroNeedles and µPosts while working on the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Bio-MicroFuel Cell Grand Challenge where Jeb investigated harvesting sugars from living plants and animals. Some of that LDRD Grand Challenge money funded early ElectroNeedle and µPost work.
It wasn’t until they hired Colin Buckley (2521), a medical student from the University of New Mexico Medical School, that the team realized the magnitude of their invention. “Colin gave us a much-needed insight into the medical diagnostic field,” says Jeb.
The team quickly realized that the tips of the ElectroNeedles and µPosts could be coated with a biologically active layer capable of measuring concentrations of specific lipids, proteins, antibodies, toxins, viruses, and carbohydrates (such as glucose). Using the ElectroNeedles and rapid electrochemical methods for analysis, a measurement can be made in a matter of a few seconds. Likewise, using the µPosts to capture proteins and other non-redox behaving molecules, optical measurements can potentially be made in under a half hour.
“Multiple chemical platforms, such as µPosts, will change medical diagnostics by giving the physician a greater understanding of the health of the patient in a shorter amount of time than standard laboratory analysis used today in medicine,” Colin says.
The arrays may be configured in a variety of formats — larger or smaller to customize for given applications.
The ElectroNeedles and µPosts can be tailored in size to sample in different portions of the skin. For example, they can be made shorter to measure small-molecular-weight compounds such as glucose in the upper layer of the skin, or they can be made longer to measure larger molecules in the blood, such as Troponin I, a key protein released when a person has a heart attack.
“Today if someone goes to an emergency room with chest pains the doctor assesses the patient’s condition based upon their symptoms. In order to accurately diagnose a patient, the doctor has to take a blood sample, which is typically sent to an off-site laboratory for analysis,” Jeb says. “The person usually has to wait six hours to get confirmation on whether they have elevated Troponin I levels indicating they have had a heart attack.”
With a µPost test a doctor would know within a couple of minutes of a patient’s arrival at the emergency room if the patient has elevated Troponin I levels, as most of the diagnostics can take place inside an ambulance during a patient’s trip to the hospital.
ElectroNeedles and µPosts now exist as a prototype and are made of Foturan®, a glass-like material. The intent is to ultimately mass-produce them in an inexpensive plastic
The technological advances the team has made have led to several patents pending. -- Chris Burroughs
By Neal Singer
It’s hard to imagine that where the rubber literally hits the road, you’ll find Sandia Labs. But in this year’s R&D 100 awards — awarded by teams of technical experts selected by Chicago-based R&D Magazine — there was Sandia, a joint winner with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The Labs’ computational mechanics software was extensively applied by the company in the development of its new Assurance line of tires, particularly the TripleTred tire. Finite-element analysis was used to simulate and predict traction, wear, durability, and other performance characteristics of the TripleTred in bringing it from concept to market in less than a year.
Listed for special recognition at Sandia on the winning joint application are Martin Heinstein, Sam Key, Mark Blanford, and Ken Alvin (all 9142), Charles Stone (9127), Harold Morgan (9140), Greg Sjaardema (9143), Arlo Ames (15233), Deepesh Kholwadwala and Paul Wolfenbarger (both 15233), Bob Kerr (9226), and John Mitchell (2614).
And there was Sandia again, using innovative data compression techniques to help physicians consult in real time on MRI pictures, though the amount of data transferred is normally huge and the healers may be thousands of miles from each other. Global-Link allows such rapid transmission of complex data that a doctor in the US can confer with a doctor halfway around the world, viewing and manipulating 3-D MRIs in realtime directly on each doctor’s MRI computer. Similarly, oil team members can confer around the globe on observed data. So can military commanders. Extremely responsive interactions between an event and a remote, secure, high-resolution display of it are possible using Global-Link across the Internet.
Involved from Sandia are Perry Robertson (1751), Lyndon Pierson (5616), John Eldridge (9336), Ron Olsberg (5616), Larry Pucket (2993), andEd Witzke (9336). Results were achieved in collaboration with Logical Solutions, Inc.’s Ross Capen, Kevin Keefe, and Mark Remlin. The company is marketing the product.
Ion-Photon Emission Microscope
A third R&D 100 award was earned for an exploratory ion beam system that does not require costly and complicated forming and focusing equipment. The system was invented and patented by Barney Doyle (1111), jointly with Mike Mellon of Quantar Technologies, which is marketing this invention.
The multidimensional, high-resolution analysis system is called the Ion-Photon Emission Microscope (IPEM). It allows scientists and engineers to microscopically study the effects of single ions in air on semiconductors, semiconductor devices, and biological cells without having to focus the beam. The technique determines the position at which an individual ion enters the surface of a sample; thus, focusing a beam is unnecessary.
The machine’s capabilities are identical with traditional single-ion nuclear microprobe analysis. It maps charge collection and other single-ion induced effects, such as logic upsets, in semiconductor and/or microelectronic devices. But expensive accelerators normally required can be avoided through use of radioactive sources. Also, because this full-field microscope uses light produced by the ions, IPEM can be performed in air, which is a requirement for diagnostic systems used for Radiation Effects Microscopy on large cyclotrons.
Also included on the award are Paolo Rossi of the University of Padova, Italy, and Floyd Del McDaniel of the University of North Texas, who both worked with Barney during sabbaticals at Sandia on the development of the IPEM. This is Barney's third R&D 100 award, and his department's fifth.
TEPIC structural foam
Last but not least, TEPIC is a rigid structural foam developed at Sandia/California that was designed originally to meet certain high-temperature and high-strength requirements for Defense Programs applications. Because it is dimensionally and mechanically stable to temperatures in excess of 200 degrees C, it meets processing requirements to be used as molding forms for advanced composite materials that cure at high temperatures. Formerly, only expensive metal tooling could meet this thermal challenge. Unlike many more conventional tooling materials, it can be processed in thick sections. Cost and weight savings should allow smaller businesses, with less capital investment, to process new composite structures, and in general enable incorporation of advanced structural composites in aerospace, military, automotive, and other consumer product industries
Team members include Steve Goods (8754), and LeRoy Whinnery, Tom Bennett, Pat Keifer, Chris Binns, and Tim Shepodd (all 8762). Also included on this award is Jim Sampson of Scion Industries, one of 2 licensees of TEPIC.
R&D 100 awards are the ‘Oscars of invention’
The annual contest attempts to select the best applied new technologies. One hundred winners are chosen from an international pool of contestants from universities, private corporations, and government labs.
Sandia often wins many of its awards in partnership with private companies, other labs, or universities. Recent emphasis on technology transfer has boosted the number of joint submissions.
The R&D 100 Awards — occasionally referred to by pundits as “the Nobel Prizes of technology” — were first awarded in 1963 as the I-R 100s, in keeping with the original name of the magazine, Industrial Research.
Many entries over the ensuing years became household names, including Polacolor film (1963), the flashcube (1965), the automated teller machine (1973), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the liquid crystal display (1980), the printer (1986), the Kodak Photo CD (1991), the Nicoderm antismoking patch (1992), Taxol anticancer drug (1993), lab on a chip (1996), and HDTV (1998).
Winners are presented plaques at a formal banquet in Chicago in early fall. -- Neal Singer
Pots simmer, expanding foam creeps over the side of a paper cup, and Borax combines with polyvinyl alcohol to make slime. It is polymer day at the American Society for Materials International (ASM) Albuquerque Materials Camp where teachers are playing students.
From June 26-July 1 at Eldorado High School, 30 high school teachers from New Mexico and across the nation had a chance to experiment hands-on with materials science.
Sandians J. Bruce Kelley (6245) and Don Susan (1813), chairs of the Albuquerque ASM chapter, spearheaded the organizational aspects.
“By teaching the teachers we can reach more kids,” says Bruce. “The workshop organizers do this because they have hearts for teaching science to the next generation.”
Their passion for science includes saving chemistry from a bad rap.
“A lot of students say they hated chemistry,” says Pat Duda of Cibola High. “They ask, ‘When will I ever need this? How is it relevant?’” Duda, one of three local teachers conducting the workshop, wanted to involve students in materials science technology and answer those questions.
Under the direction of ASM members, Duda and fellow teachers Margaret Showalter of Eldorado High and Ellen Loehman of Jefferson Middle School led experiments. Other Sandians giving presentations included retiree Ken Eckelmeyer, who gave the opening talks, Mike Hessheimer (6864) on testing nuclear reactor containment structures, Rob Sorenson (6142) on corrosion on basic electrochemistry, Jill Glass (1825) on glass and ceramics, and Jim Aubert (1821) on polymer structure and properties.
“Sandia gives depth and a link to how techniques are used,” says teacher Donna Jernigan of Albuquerque High.
After the talks and demonstrations, participating teachers pulled on gloves to explore topics themselves.
“We look at the macroscopic properties to see what on the microscopic and atomic scale corresponds,” says Loehman. Each day focused on one of four main division: metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites. To learn about raku on ceramics day, participants bisque-fired clay, applied glaze containing metal oxides, and again fired the clay to trigger an oxidation-reduction reaction.
“I have been so excited by using everyday items to experience chemistry,” says Advanced Placement chemistry teacher Dolores Salazar. She plans to incorporate the camp’s labs, ideas, and philosophy into her Rio Grande High School classes. In addition to chemistry teachers, the camp attracted Explora staff and an inclusion/special education teacher.
Lockheed Martin/Sandia, the National Science Foundation, and ASM’s Los Alamos and Albuquerque chapters sponsored the camp. All teachers received a full scholarship to cover tuition, supplies, and room and board.
Al Romig, Sandia Deputy Director for Integrated Technology Programs who has led Lockheed Martin/Sandia’s financial support for each of the local workshop’s three years, says, “The energy and passion these teachers already had was remarkable. Our goal was to enhance this — to help teachers take science and wrap it up in something students can touch in everyday life, and to help students see the materials components in sports, cars, airplanes, electronics, and biomaterials.”
“The camp appears to be helping teachers interest the students in careers in materials science and engineering,” he says. “We’re gratified that as one result of the camp, APS has recently approved a high school materials course for its students.”
This coming school year, more than 600 high school students plan to take the course, which has been developed by ASM and Sandia members, APS teachers, and various university professors based on their experiences in previous years’ camps. The course is rigorous and meets standards, the teachers emphasize, but has a different focus. As the first APS materials science course, it is one of only a few in the country. Eleven APS teachers who will be teaching the course attended the workshop.
“In a regular chemistry course, you’re concerned about all the traditional things such as stoichiometry and gas laws. Here, your approach is a little different,” says Chris Hilleary, who will teach the new course at Sandia High. “Materials science teachers need to strike a balance in their classroom and be sure to cover the concepts and address standards to understand the chemistry behind what they’re doing.” He hopes the new course will engage different kinds of learners. . -- Elizabeth Malone