Research Highlight

Sensor that detects glucose, generates power from body fluids

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.168 Published online 17 December 2019

Researchers have invented a semiconductor-based sensor that can simultaneously detect glucose and generate power from bodily fluids1. The sensor will be useful for the early diagnosis of diabetes and other related metabolic disorders. 

Existing glucose sensors detect glucose by breaking down glucose and generating electrical signals that are proportional to glucose concentrations. However, most of these sensors are complex and unstable. 

To overcome this, an international research team, including an Indian scientist from the CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CECRI) in Karaikudi, India, fabricated the sensor using a semiconducting polymer and glucose oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down glucose. They then developed a fuel cell using the sensor, which converts the chemical energy of glucose and oxygen into electrical power.

When exposed to varying concentrations of glucose, the device exhibited an excellent selectivity to glucose. Its sensitivity increased with the increase in glucose concentration, with a stability that exceeds 30 days.

The device successfully measured glucose content in saliva samples collected from healthy patients, displaying a linear response to glucose at concentrations relevant for non-diabetic and diabetic saliva. It was markedly less sensitive to most common biochemical compounds that are usually found in bodily fluids.

At physiologically relevant glucose concentrations and from fluids such as human saliva, it generates enough power to operate an organic electrochemical transistor. The researchers say that the innovation could pave the way for the development of low-cost, stable biofuel cells that would utilise glucose to power other electronic devices.


1. Ohayon, D. et al. Biofuel powered glucose detection in bodily fluids with an n-type conjugated polymer. Nat. Mater.(2019) doi: 10.1038/s41563-019-0556-4