UT Chemists Create Origami-Like Sensor To Detect Malaria, HIV

Chemists at UT this week reported huge news: a sensor inspired by the Chinese paper-folding art of origami might be able to test for diseases such as malaria and HIV. Even better? Each innovative device costs less than 10 cents.

The origami device, developed by chemistry professor Richard Crooks and doctoral student Hong Liu, operates on principles related to the one-dimensional paper home pregnancy test. The 3-D sensor can test for more substances within a smaller surface area, providing better results for complex tests.

Liu’s inspiration came after reading a paper by Harvard University chemist George Whitesides. Whitesides created a device that was technically the first 3-D sensor used for targeting biological substances, but its production was expensive and time-consuming, and its design limited.

When Liu read the details about Whitesides’ device and its limitations, he was reminded of his childhood in China. “Our teacher taught us origami,” Liu said. “I realized it didn’t have to be so difficult. It can be very easy. Just fold the paper, and then apply pressure.”

“Anybody can fold them up,” said Richard Crooks of the oPAD, the origami Paper Analytical Device. He said low-cost, “point-of-care” sensors have the potential to be incredibly useful in the developing world: “This is about medicine for everybody.”

Photo by Alex Wang. Courtesy UT’s College of Natural Sciences.


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