McMicken College of Arts & Sciences logo

FaceBook   Twitter   Digg!   del.icio.us


UC Undergrad Helps Develop Exceptionally Tiny Sensor

Chemistry undergraduate researcher Timothy Meyung is working to develop tiny electrochemical sensors which monitor the degradation rate of magnesium-based, biodegradable medical implants.

Date: 11/22/2011 12:00:00 PM
By: Ryan Varney
Phone: (513) 556-0142
Photos By: Xuefei Guo
Timothy Meyung and Xuefei Guo are designing tiny electrochemical sensors which will monitor the degradation rate of magnesium-based implants.
Timothy Meyung and Xuefei Guo are designing tiny electrochemical sensors which will monitor the degradation rate of magnesium-based implants.

Timothy Meyung, an undergraduate researcher in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Cincinnati, is part of a group working to develop tiny electrochemical sensors that may save those with medical implants from having to undergo extra surgical procedures. Led by William Heineman, head of the Department of Chemistry, and graduate students Xuefei Guo and Julia Kuhlmann, the group hopes that these sensors will one day monitor the degradation rate of magnesium-based, biodegradable medical implants.

“In Dr. Heineman’s group, I have been working on the design of solid-state ion selective electrodes. Currently our design involves carbon nanotubes (CNTs) as ion-to-electron transducers, which have great potential to miniaturize ion-selective sensors,” says Meyung.

In the past, medical implants were often made of titanium or other non-biodegradable materials, but now there is the option of magnesium-based implants which are biodegradable. With the titanium implants, a second surgery is required to remove the implant once it has done its job. However, the biodegradable nature of magnesium-based implants can potentially alleviate the need for a removal surgery because the implant will degrade inside the body.

According to Meyung, “Many patients receive medical implants for different reasons. A main reason that an implant would be required is in the case of broken bones. A titanium implant will be placed in the human to help stabilize the bone structure and facilitate its healing. What is exciting about the magnesium implants is that they will degrade inside the body. This will make a second surgery that is often required to remove the titanium implant not necessary.”

For this to happen there must be a way to monitor the degradation of the magnesium implant. That is why it is important for Meyung’s team to design such a tiny sensor—so it can be implanted into the body as a way to monitor the implant’s degradation progress.

Eventually, the miniaturized sensors will be tested in the in vitro Corrosion Characterization System (CCS) to determine their effectiveness. “The in vitro CCS will be used to replicate the environment of the human body so we can assess the sensor’s performance and the effects of the implant’s degradation on surrounding cells.”

Heineman has been impressed with Meyung’s efforts. “[Meyung] recently joined my group and has jumped into undergraduate research with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Under the guidance of senior graduate student, Xuefei Guo, the sensors that he is developing are very important because of their exceptionally small size. Tim also has a good possibility of generating enough results for co-authorship on a journal article,” he says.

The research project is part of an Engineering Research Center (ERC) grant that is funded by the National Science Foundation.

More A&S News | A&S Home | A&S Research | UC News | UC Home