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Nanomaterial Integrated Photonic Technologies for Medical Diagnostics and Environmental Monitoring

   School of Science & Technology

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  Assoc Prof Xianfeng Chen  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


The project aims to exploit emerging bio-nano-photonic technologies to develop a new sensing platform for applications that include disease detection and environmental monitoring. This project will combine studies in photonics, nanotechnology, materials, and biomedical engineering and is suitable for applicants with a background in physics, electronics or chemistry, with an interest in nanomaterials.  


One of the 21st century’s main challenges is related to human health, including health care, medical diagnosis and environment monitoring. The World Health Organization recently reported that several diseases (cancers, infectious illnesses, heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes) cause almost two-thirds of all deaths worldwide. The diseases are a tremendous burden on both people and society at large. The economic impact of disease is so significant that the annual cost is estimated at US$ 1.16 trillion. The illnesses all require rapid and accurate detection of tiny concentrations of analytes or substances. Traditional methods have significant drawbacks: laborious sample preparation, they are often time-consuming and require access to costly instruments. To overcome those disadvantages, faster and even more sensitive detection techniques are required.  

Biophotonics, an emerging field that studies how light (photons) interact with biological materials, is important in medical and life sciences research. Advanced nanomaterials play a key role in many technological revolutions we are facing today. Over the last decade, Bio-nano-photonics has attracted enormous attention for the analysis of molecular mechanisms and functions of deoxyribonucleic acid, proteins, and other biomolecules and for the investigation of light-tissue interactions for the detection, diagnosis and treatment of various diseases.  

[Innovative methodology]  

The project will exploit cutting-edge interdisciplinary research across physics, nanotech, materials, biochemistry, and biological sciences.  We will train a new type of researcher with fundamental, experimental, and application-driven skills. This research will design and fabricate a variety of novel micro-nano photonic devices; synthesise advanced materials (e.g., transition metal dichalcogenides, black phosphorus …), characterise the materials with a range of advanced microscopies and diffraction techniques; functionalise the devices with a bio-receptor (i.e., a neuron-specific enolase cancer biomarker), and investigate light-matter interactions as readouts of biological activity. The created biosensors will be tested in vitro in applications such as cancer diagnosis, infectious disease detection, photothermal therapy, and environmental pathogen monitoring according to the specific pairing of materials and biofunctionalization.  

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