NUI Galway Secures €2.8 Million Grant for Biomolecular Electronics Research

Monday, 6 November 2006

06 November 2006: The European Commission has announced a grant of €2.8 million for an international research project which will take place at NUI Galway on bio-powered bio-electrochemical sensing systems. The Research Project, which is being run in collaboration with research groups across international universities, will be headed up by Dr. Dónal Leech of NUI Galway's Chemistry Department.

The Specific Targeted Research Project (STREP) titled BIO-MEDNANO, aims to investigate technologies for the development of biocatalytic fuel cells and biosensors. For example, 21st century medicine will increasingly demand the monitoring and control of a range of medical conditions by sophisticated, miniaturised and integrated implantable devices. Current battery technology uses highly reactive lithium making miniaturisation expensive and difficult, and thus biocatalytic fuel cells will be of significant importance in medical devices of the future.

Commenting on the announcement, Dr. Dónal Leech said: "Biocatalytic fuel cells represent a realistic opportunity for the provision of implantable power and there is enormous scope for the wider application of biosensors in the area of medical diagnostics, in environmental monitoring and in food quality. We are delighted to have secured this funding which will allow us to make important strides forward over the next number of years and look forward to leading the way in research in this field".

The Biomolecular Electronics Research Laboratory of NUI Galway's Chemistry Department will co-ordinate the research project. It is a collaboration between NUI Galway and research groups at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Southampton, the University of Rome, Czech Republic company BVT Technologies, and Finish organisations Abo Akademi and VTT Biotechnology.

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Note to editors:

The major innovation of this project is related to an optimised combination of enzyme, mediator, and molecular bridges on novel electrodes to ensure efficient and sustainable electron transfer in order to power devices such as biosensors.

Biocatalytic fuel cells are fuel cells which rely upon biocatalytic reactions at the electrodes to convert chemicals into electrical power. These fuel cells represent a realistic opportunity for provision of implantable power, given the exquisite selectivity of enzyme catalysts, their activity under physiological conditions, and the relative ease of immobilisation of isolated enzymes. Implantable biocatalytic fuel calls have thus been proposed, where the body's own chemicals are used to produce power in-viro.

It is anticipated that the implanted biofuel cells could use body fluids, particularly blood, as the fuel source for the generation of electrical power, which may then be used to activate pacemakers, insulin pumps, prosthetic elements, or biosensing systems. Biofuel cells have also been suggested in military or security fields for detection of explosives.

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