Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Smart Bandage

How a smart bandage works.

Dressing a wound may stop the bleeding, but it can’t tell you whether the cut has become infected. Now “smart” bandages being developed at the University of Rochester change color not only to warn patients and doctors that there is an infection, but also to specify which bacteria are present.

The smart bandage is a thin sensor made of crystalline silicon and layers of porous silicon. The porous silicon is treated with a liquid that contains probe molecules engineered to bind to fat molecules found on the surface of specific bacteria. When the bandage is placed over an infected area, bacteria from the wound move into the porous silicon and attach themselves to the probe molecules, altering the optical properties of the silicon. Doctors illuminate the bandage with light from a handheld semiconductor laser device, and the bandage luminesces in a color that indicates the kind of bacteria that are present-red for E. coli, for example, or yellow for strep. With the immediate diagnosis of the culprit germs, doctors won’t have to wait for the results of laboratory cultures.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, are working on similar sensors. Refinements to the technology should help smart bandages make their way into hospitals within a year or two as sensors embedded in the mesh of standard dressings. But you may see them popping up elsewhere sooner. The same technology could be applied to meat wrappers and other food packaging, which would show a warning color upon detection of food-borne bacteria. Such sensors could also be affixed to drinking glasses that would check for water purity or indications of biowarfare. Bandages aren’t just for skinned knees anymore.

This story is part of our May 2003 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.

Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.