DARPA grant given for bioagent detecting chip

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has granted $4.3 million dollars to a project that will develop a chip capable of simultaneously detecting both chemical and biological agents.

The project, by a team of Georgia Institute of Technology engineers, is led by center director Ali Adibi and will work with researchers from Emory University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale University and other schools and industry collaborators.

“The proposed sensors will detect multiple biological and chemical threats on a compound integrated platform faster, less expensively and more sensitively than the current state-of-the-art sensors,” Adibi said. “The goal is to achieve very high sensitivity for each modality and investigate the advantages of each modality for different classes of biological and chemical agents in order to develop a clear set of guidelines for combining different modalities to achieve the desired performance for a specific set of agents.”

Researchers will need to achieve three major goals to create the integrated chip. They must design optomechanical and photonic structure that will be able to sense miniscule differences in refractive index, fluorescence, absorption, mass and Raman emissions. The team must make the sensor surface functional with coatings that the agents can attach to. Development must also occur on the micofluidic sample deliver device and the connection between the device and the coated photonic structure.

“In two years, we hope to have a lab-on-a-chip system that includes all of the sensing modalities with appropriate coatings and microfluidic delivery,” Adibi said. “To show the feasibility of the technology, we plan to demonstrate the high sensitivity and high selectivity of each sensor individually and be able to use at least two of the sensing modalities simultaneously to detect two or three different chemical or biological agents.”