By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Biosensors are devices comprising a biological element and a physiochemical detector that are used to detect analytes. These instruments have a wide range of applications ranging from clinical through to environmental and agricultural. The devices are also used in the food industry.
Some examples of the fields that use biosensor technology include:
- General healthcare monitoring
- Screening for disease
- Clinical analysis and diagnosis of disease
- Veterinary and agricultural applications
- Industrial processing and monitoring
- Environmental pollution control
Biosensors can provide cost-effective, easy-to-use, sensitive and highly accurate detection devices in a variety of research and commercial applications. Some examples of these applications are described below.
Clinical and Diagnostic Applications
One well known example of a clinically applied biosensor is the glucose monitor, which is used on a routine basis by diabetic individuals to check their blood sugar level. These devices detect the amount of blood glucose in undiluted blood samples allowing for the easy self-testing and monitoring that has revolutionized diabetes management.
Applications in industry
Biosensors are used in the food industry to measure carbohydrates, alcohols and acids, for example, during quality control processes. The devices may also be used to check fermentation during the production of beer, yoghurt and soft drinks. Another important application is their use in detecting pathogens in fresh meat, poultry or fish.
Biosensors are used to check the quality of air and water. The devices can be used to pick up traces of organophosphates from pesticides or to check the toxicity levels of wastewater, for example.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: May 2, 2014