Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have become a miracle material; researchers are finding wide ranging applications from transparent conductive layers to solar cells to printable electronics. Scientists at the University of Texas Arlington (UT) is working on a new device that could transform the lives of millions of diabetic patients around the world.

Kyunsuk Yum, assistant professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department, is working on using CNT materials as a sensor to detect glucose levels in a patient’s blood. These devices can be made to emit light in the near-infrared range, with more or less light generated depending on the amount of glucose present. Add an optical sensor to read the amount of light emitted, and you have a device that can read glucose levels constantly. This has advantages over the traditional finger-stick method of drawing blood samples at different times throughout the day. Yum’s design is an injectable device that could report the glucose level wirelessly to a hand-held scanner, or possibly even a smartphone.

This new approach would also have advantages over the constant glucose monitor (CGM) systems that are available now. The CGM devices take readings from within the skin, rather than from the blood stream, and may not be as accurate. Also, these devices must be recalibrated frequently and replaced at least once a week. An injectable sensor could provide a more permanent solution to monitoring glucose levels around the clock.