Nicole McFarlane, an assistant professor in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. (Credit: University of Tennessee Knoxville)

A new technology may change the way patients with diabetes monitor their glucose levels, thanks to new sensors being developed. Researchers are working with analyte sensors that could one day do away with the current need for finger pricking among those with diabetes. These analyte sensors are designed based on biology and can be implanted in a patient to allow for continuous monitoring.

The sensors use a two-pronged approach. The sensor that will require a smaller sample size but will also be able to reliably replace the sensors people currently use. These new smart devices could even deliver medication as needed, reducing the need for painful insulin injections.

Scientists working at the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory examine the behaviors and properties of materials at the smallest scales, allowing them to improve technology in fields as diverse as electronics and medicine.

Common means of measurement require an extremely sensitive detector of light, but these devices have major drawbacks — they are expensive, require massive cooling efforts, and can be somewhat delicate as they are housed inside a glass tube. The analyte sensors have the potential to provide solutions to all of those issues.

Further, analyte sensors are nonmagnetic, meaning that there is no possibility of experiments being interfered with by a magnetic field — a problem with current SNS equipment. This array of benefits could have an enormous impact on neutron scattering research.