Tablet-Sized Heater Can Regulate Temperature of Diagnostic Samples
Denrie Caila Perez posted on March 23, 2020 |
This pill-sized heater can eliminate the need for complex diagnostic equipment.

A mini “heater” capable of regulating the temperature of biological samples has recently been developed by a team of researchers from the University of Toronto Engineering. This capsule was specifically designed to minimize complex lab equipment as samples pass through diagnostic testing stages. A typical diagnostic test can involve a number of temperature-regulation steps. Temperature factors are particularly critical in accurately detecting infectious pathogens. This pill-sized heater tablet allows for more flexible diagnostic testing procedures.

“The precision and flexibility of our heater opens the door to a future of do-it-yourself diagnostic kits,” said Pranav Kadhiresan, one of the researchers on the project. “We could combine the simplicity of a high school chemistry set with the precision of cutting-edge lab instruments.”

A non-reactive acrylic mold, encapsulating lithium, was used for the outer part of the heater tablet. This is a material commonly found in battery cells. The lithium reacts when dissolved in water and interacts with the solution, releasing heat and hydrogen gas. This is what produces an increase in temperature along a certain amount of time. According to the researchers, an 8-mm star-shaped lithium mold was the most ideal to generate sufficient heat.

Due to this, the heater tablet does not require electricity to do its job, making it ideal for areas that do not have sophisticated research facilities.

“The lack of electricity adds a layer of complexity,” said Buddhisha Udugama, co-researcher. “Our miniature heater addresses that. It can be used in various settings to detect viruses without the need for electricity. If we were to summarize the benefits of our technology, it would be accessibility, portability and precision.”

The researchers’ goal is to make this kind of technology more accessible to the public, allowing for easier administration of diagnostic tests. The heater tablet can be easily put to use, eliminating the need for specialized training to conduct tests.

“Combined with smartphone technology, everyone would have a portable system that can track, monitor and diagnose infections. This is critical for preventing the spread of diseases,” said Warren Chan, co-researcher.

The details surrounding the technology have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

For more similar news and stories, check out how this saliva test kit simplifies infectious disease diagnosis.

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