Ultra-small Sensor Checks DNA, Radiation, PM2.5 at Home

Oct 18, 2013
Tsuneyuki Miyake, Tech-On!
The "Micro PMT"
The "Micro PMT"
[Click to enlarge image]
Samples
Samples
[Click to enlarge image]

Hamamatsu Photonics K.K. developed a new sensor that enables to analyze DNA by using a small amount of blood (equivalent to the amount sucked by a mosquito) and to monitor pollution caused by radiation or PM2.5 at home.

The new sensor, which realizes personal medical cares and measurements, was developed by using a semiconductor manufacturing technology suited for low-cost volume production. Hamamatsu Photonics will start to ship samples for medical devices for laboratory testing and environmental measurement devices Nov 1, 2013.

The new sensor is a photomultiplier tube (PMT) that converts weak light (photons) into electric signals and detects them. However, it was realized not by using a vacuum tube, which is commonly used, but by using MEMS (micro electro mechanical systems) made with semiconductor manufacturing technologies.

Hamamatsu Photonics calls the sensor "Micro PMT." It can be applied to fluorometry, which is widely used in the fields of biotechnology and genetic engineering, as well as to spectrophotometers, which are used for identifying substances, etc.

The sensor supports a wavelength range from 300nm (ultraviolet light) to 850nm (near-infrared light). It can also be applied to radiation counting using a scintillator that emits fluorescence with incident radiation.

The Micro PMT is so small that it can be placed on a finger while existing small PMTs are approximately 1.5cm in diameter and 5cm in length. And the Micro PMT is assembled by hand. The principle of the Micro PMT is the same as that of existing PMTs. But the Micro PMT is resistant to vibration and impact because it is made by hand. Therefore, it can be used for mobile devices.

The Micro PMT can be applied to inspection devices for POCT (point-of-care testing), which enables to conduct an inspection and show the results in front of the patient, and to personal medical devices, with which patients can conduct an inspection by themselves at home, Hamamatsu Photonics said.

Furthermore, the Micro PMT might realize a personal DNA testing device that facilitates "tailor-made medicine" or personalized medical care. In environmental measurement, the new sensor has a potential to quantitatively measure radiation, PM2.5, rainwater, soil, volcanic ash, smoke exhaust, etc on the spot, Hamamatsu Photonics said.

The company will offer two models of the sensor. One contains a battery, and the other does not. The prices of the samples range from ¥60,900 (approx US$621) to 80,850 (including tax). Hamamatsu Photonics aims to achieve sales of ¥10 million in the first year and ¥500 million in the third year.