Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

Novel sensor for in vivo nano-mechanical characterization

Posted by Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPCResponsive · Patents for licensing · Spain

Summary of the technology

A nanoforce sensor has been designed to be able to work in aqueous environments. The system is based on a motion amplifier mechanism that allows to amplify extremely small displacements (nanometers) up to 200 times, providing the possibility to characterize the mechano-transduction mechanisms either of a single cell or a tissue in a 3D gel scaffold. Partners to further develop the system applying to specific assays and/or to establish commercial agreements along with technical cooperation are sought.

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

The Challenge


It is universally accepted in the physiology community that cells can transduce mechanical signals into bio-chemical signals and vice versa (a complex process called mechanotransduction), and that these transductions play fundamental roles in a number of pathological conditions. A fundamental understanding of mechanotransduction (with the final goal of controlling it) is still lacking. A handful of techniques have been developed over the past decade, but to this day, applying controlled force to one or more points in the cell or tissue while simultaneously probing the mechanical response at others remains a huge technological challenge. To help address these challenges, we proposed to develop a MEMS -based ultra-sensitive force sensor (load cell) capable of operating in aqueous solution.

The Technology


A MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) force sensor has been developed to work in biological systems. The design uses a capacitive read-out scheme to monitor the lateral displacement of a slender beam in response to the axially applied force (Fig. 1). To greatly amplify the lateral displacement (and hence the sensitivity), the beam is designed with an initial (small) curvature. The amplification factor is controlled by the geometry of the beam.
The mid-point of the beam is connected on each side to one electrode of a charged capacitor, with the other electrode held stationary. Small capacitance changes can be measured very accurately with inexpensive commercially available detectors thus providing a very sensitive measurement of the applied axial load. The design can be manufactured in any single mask microfabrication process.

Current stage of development


The system has been successfully tested in a laboratory prototype. In general, this force sensor provides exceptional resolution, but the range has to be tuned according to the application. The designs tested predicts a wider range of forces, tens of microNewtons, with higher resolutions, and below the picoNewton by passivating and immersing the device in aqueous solution.

Applications and Target Market


The system has been developed to be integrated into any assay platform, since it can be fabricated in any single mask fabrication process and it can work in aqueous solution. A scientifically relevant approach involves measurement of cell colonies in three-dimensional gel scaffolds to characterize different mechanotransduction mechanisms.

Innovative advantages


· Single mask lithography Highly sensitive measurements (from nanoNewtons to microNewtons) Inexpensive production and integration Implementation in a wide variety of micro fabrication processes Compatible with in-vivo measurements since it is fully submergible

Intellectual property status

Granted Patent
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Technology available for licensing with technical cooperation Patent Status Priority application e e , -

Technology Owner

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

Technology Transfer Office

Related keywords

  • Electronics, IT and Telecomms
  • Sensor Technology related to measurements
  • Sensors & Wireless products
  • Measurements and Standards
  • Measurement Tools
  • Electronic measurement systems
  • Measurement devices
  • Electrical Technology related to measurements
  • Mechanical Technology related to measurements
  • nano-mechanical characterization

About Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - UPC

Technology Transfer Office from Spain

The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - BarcelonaTech is a public institution dedicated to higher education and research in the fields of engineering, architecture and science, which contributes its knowledge and expertise in order to increase scientific output, transfer its results to society and provide a network of scientific and technical state-of-the-art facilities and technology valorization services that place us at the leading edge of innovation and economic development.

The UPC has established itself as a driver of innovation and is the technology partner of choice for companies and organizations with which it develops projects and builds partnerships. A role borne out by the numerous agreements and research projects that have been set in motion by groups, organizations and laboratories; the creation of new technology-based companies; the generation and exploitation of patents, and the scientific and technical services UPC makes available to its environment in order to generate progress and employment.

The Technology Transfer Office (SGI) is responsible of Designing, coordinating and implementing research valorisation strategies, carrying out the protection policy of the research results, marketing these results through license contracts and designing and setting up the University's enterprise creation model in order to transfer the results of the research to the market, protect and commercialize these results, promote the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, and create technology-based companies within the UPC environment.

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