URI Professor Develops Infection-Detecting Nanosensor Bandage

University of Rhode Island assistant professor of chemical engineering Daniel Roxbury has recently made an innovation that could change the medical world as we know it.

His innovation, a bandage that can detect infections in a wound, has been praised for its innovation. The bandage works through combining nanosensors with other fibers normally used in bandages. It senses the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the area, which is an indicator as to whether or not a wound is infected.

“It was one of those high-risk ideas, and not everyone allows a grad student to start a high-risk idea in the lab,” Mohammad Moein Safaee, former-graduate student, said. “But [Roxbury] was very supportive.”

Roxbury said he and his team had been working with nanotechnology preceding this project. He got the idea for the bandage while working with students on biosensing and embedding nanosensors into other materials.

He said the team developed a method to embed nanosensors into the fibers that are used in some bandages.

“We got a very nice, stable material in the end, the nanosensors don’t come out of the material- that’s what was very crucial for us,” Roxbury said. “They’re biocompatible polymer that’s already [Food and Drug Administration]  approved. It’s in contact with the wound, but we’re not worried about any kind of toxicity or anything.”

Safaee said that the inspiration for that idea came from the techniques used by larger companies to make similar materials.

“They use this technology called electrospinning,” Safaee said. “It’s just a technology that produces micro and nano fibers and then assembles them into a textile format for these sorts of applications.”

While the technique isn’t used for regular clothes, Safaee said it can be used for making masks and other higher-tech materials. Both he and Roxbury thought it would fit well for what they were trying to do.

According to Roxbury, the bandage is not very expensive to produce, the cost of making one comes in at about 50 cents.

“Really, if we’re able to get a company to mass produce, obviously the cost is going to go way down,” Roxbury said.

The process is far from finished, however. Roxbury said that his next step is now working on technology to help inform the person wearing the bandage if the cut is infected or not.

“We need to know what [the signal] is, and send it somewhere,” Roxbury said.

Currently, his team is working on a special light that would show the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the wound to solve this problem. Roxbury said that they have moved from a tabletop light to one that is handheld, and that his team’s final goal is to make the device wearable.

Safaee said that working in Roxbury’s lab is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that Roxbury’s tutelage was what made him into a better scientist.

“The most important thing he left me as an advisor is a good advising style,” Safaee said. “So I’m going to start my own academic career, maybe in a few years as a professor, and I think I’m going to have his advising style as much as I can.”

This was one of my first articles written as News Editor of the Good Five Cent Cigar, and was published in its Feb. 4, 2021 edition.

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