Research team

AXES (Antwerp X-ray Analysis, Electrochemistry and Speciation)

Expertise

photo-electrocatalysis, (bio)sensor development, electrochemical sensors,fundamental electrochemical studies,material degradation studies,organic electrochemistry,bio-electrochemistry,analytical characterization of inorganic air pollutants

Singlet oxygen based electroanalysis. 01/06/2021 - 31/05/2023

Abstract

This SEP grant will be used to introduce a new sensing paradigm based on the use of singlet oxygen (1O2), which was the topic of a first ERC CoG application in 2020 (second round), and entitles a resubmission. We will connect the power of 1O2 chemistry with the sustainability of electrochemistry to offer a breakthrough in robust, selective and sensitive (bio)sensor technologies. The use of 1O2 for electroanalysis is a largely undiscovered research field with no insight into the underlying principles of this new paradigm. The main fundamental research question is "How does 1O2, generated by a soluble photosensitizer or immobilized on a (semi)conducting surface, contribute to a photoelectrochemical response? What if quenchers, targets or bio-photosensitizers are present?". This project will pave the way to create cost-efficient, ultrasensitive electrochemical biosensors for on-site environmental monitoring and point-of-care medical analysis. It will open a whole new field of research based on 1O2 redox chemistry, beyond sensing applications, such as metal-free electrochemical photocatalysis, and the creation of more efficient materials for water purification and light energy conversion.

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Wearable microneedle-based devices for therapeutic drug monitoring (Therasen). 01/05/2021 - 30/04/2022

Abstract

Therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) has the potential to improve patient outcomes and dramatically reduce healthcare burden. Still, wearable devices have yet to break through the clinical application of TDM. Today, current TDM methods rely on embedded sensors in catheters or venous blood extraction which is analysed in centralised laboratories. Therefore, there is an unmet need to provide non-invasive and real-time monitoring of therapeutic drugs to address individualized doseresponse characteristics of drugs. This necessity will be addressed by Therasen which aims to contribute with innovative closed-loop sensing and delivery microneedle (MN)-based devices toward a patient-specific therapy. Hence, MN electrochemical drug devices are introduced here as a cutting edge technology to enhance patient compliance and yield optimal therapies. Therasen tackles: (i) affordable and scalable microfabrication methods of MN patches, (ii) functionalisation of MN electrodes with engineered nanomaterials and polymers for monitoring therapeutic levels of methotrexate and esketamine in the interstitial fluid of skin, (iii) development of MN drug delivery systems; and importantly (iv) validation methods of the closedloop MN-device (integration of electrochemical sensor and drug delivery system).

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Enviromics - Integrated Technologies in EcoSystems 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2026

Abstract

Enviromics is a multidisciplinary consortium of UAntwerpen researchers across the board of environmental sciences and technologies. Through impactful fundamental advances and interdisciplinary approaches across biology, (bio)chemistry and (bio)engineering, the consortium offers bio based solutions to ecosystem challenges by a strong interaction between three pillars (i) Environmental applications and nature based solutions, (ii) Sensing and analysis of chemicals and environments and (iii) Microbial technology and biomaterials, supported by sustainable product development and technology assessment. Through a renewed and tighter focus the ENVIROMICS consortium now signs for a leaner and more dynamic shape. Through intensified collaborations with different stakeholders, both national and international, the leverage for creating enhanced business and societal impact is reinforced. The consortium is strongly managed by a team of two highly profiled researchers partnered by an IOF manager and a project manager with clearly defined tasks and in close contact with the consortium members and the central Valorisation Unit of the university. The consortium has a strong and growing IP position, mainly on environmental/electrochemical sensing and microbial probiotics, two key points of the research and applications program. One spinoff was created in 2017 and two more will be setup in the coming three years. The direct interaction with product developers ensures delivering high TRL products. Next to a growing portfolio of industrial contracts, we create tangible societal impact, when relevant including citizen science approaches. Through the stronger leverage created by the new structure and partnerships we will develop both intertwined branches significantly.

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True colours of titanium dioxide - coloured titania and their advanced characterisation for use in CO2 reduction and sensing applications 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2024

Abstract

Titanium-dioxide-based materials (titania) are semiconductors with many versatile applications in chemical catalysis, electrochemical sensing, food industry, energy conversion and many more. A considerable part of these applications rely on the electron-hole formation in titania by the absorption of light in the UV range. However, this restricts many practical applications, since sunlight has a limited UV content. Coloured titania, such as grey and black titania, can be formed via thermal, chemical or sonochemical reduction pathways. Although these materials absorb light in the visible range, there is many conflicting data reported about their activity and involved mechanistic pathways. There is also no consensus on the optimal synthesis routes to enhance specific favorable material characteristics. The large heterogeneity in coloured titania materials and their syntheses used in literature hampers a clear correlation between synthesis, electronic structure and activity. In this concerted action, we aim at a controlled alteration of the reduction conditions of porous titania linked to a direct determination of a variety of properties, such as electron traps, surface-adsorbed and surface-reacted species, bulk defects, band gap, polymorphs and pore sizes, and to activity measurements. For the latter we will test their capacity for photocatalytic reduction of CO2 and their applicability as electrode material in the electrochemical sensing of phenolic compounds in water. With this approach we guarantee that the results of the different experiments can be directly compared and correlated. This will allow determining the key factors governing the relation between synthesis, electronic and geometric structure and activity of coloured titania. This knowledge will be translated in optimal synthesis conditions for the here proposed applications, of importance in sustainable chemistry and development. The project makes use of the unique complementary expertise in the synthesis, experimental and theoretical characterization and application of titanium-dioxide-based materials available at UAntwerp.

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Diagnostics for Artworks. 01/12/2020 - 30/11/2022

Abstract

This SEP grant is used to further develop a multi-analytical approach and explore the applicability of electrochemistry complemented with FTIR spectroscopy to the analysis of the reactivity of historical pigments in particular. Electrochemistry examines the reactions occurring at the interface of the electrode and the solution with high selectivity and sensitivity. Degraded pigments generally change oxidation state (redox reaction), caused by various factors such as the environment or chemical composition. These factors can be reproduced and controlled through electrochemistry, thereby identifying the related redox reactions. FTIR spectroscopy provides complementary information on the molecular changes, helping to identify the degradation mechanisms of the pigments. This project is part of an international collaboration and aims at promoting the interaction between the various aspects of diagnosis, bridging the gap between "micro" point-wise analysis methods and "macro" global techniques. It concerns a concerted effort to optimise and extend these methods across a wide range of cultural heritage objects. Pooling them together in a complementary way will lead to widespread benefits across the community. The specific research aim of the SEP experiments is to detect the specific markers of degraded geranium lakes in order to obtain information about the degradation mechanism of the pigment and the structure of the resulting products. Samples from oil paintings of Van Gogh showing problems of discoloration in the red regions will be studied, together with mock-ups of the pure geranium lakes and mixtures with other pigments and binding media combining accelerated ageing and natural ageing. Experiments will be done by Optical Microscopy and FTIR microscopy (MCT detector with a globar source collecting 256 scans with a spectral resolution of 4 cm-1) coupled to complementary techniques (such as photoluminescence and SEM-EDX). Those experiments will be complemented by electrochemical experiments to investigate the degradation processes of the lake material. Geranium lakes will be characterized by cyclic voltammetry and/or differential pulse voltammetry. To ensure the full understanding of the electrochemical behaviour, the experiments will include the main precursor. The expected outcomes of this project are: I) characterize the reactivity of geranium lakes, providing a deeper fundamental knowledge in the chemical nature of these compounds, II) develop specific protection strategies for painting layers applied in historical objects contributing to a better preservation of the cultural heritage and III) to prepare a new ITN application as partner, including the results of the above experiments to further strengthen multi-analytical approaches, central in the application. A postdoctoral fellow will be appointed, also taking the opportunity to explore which European initiatives can be set up in this research domain.

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High resolution Raman spectroscopy and imaging. 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2024

Abstract

High resolution Raman imaging is a versatile imaging technique that generates detailed maps of the chemical composition of technical as well as biological samples. The equipment with given specifications is not yet available at UAntwerp, and will crucially complement the high-end chemical imaging techniques (XRF, XRD, IR, SEM-EDX-WDX, LA-ICP-MS) that are already available at UAntwerp for material characterization. High resolution Raman imaging will expose, with high resolution, the final details (structural fingerprint) of the material of interest. In first instance, we aim to boost the following research lines: electrochemistry, photocatalysis, marine microbiology, environmental analysis and cultural heritage. The Raman microscope should be as versatile as possible, to support potential future technological enhancements.

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Bringing nanoscience from the lab to society (NANOLAB). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

Nanomaterials play a key role in modern technology and society, because of their unique physical and chemical characteristics. The synthesis of nanomaterials is maturing but surprisingly little is known about the exact roles that different experimental parameters have in tuning their final properties. It is hereby of crucial importance to understand the connection between these properties and the (three-dimensional) structure or composition of nanomaterials. The proposed consortium will focus on the design and use of nanomaterials in fields as diverse as plasmonics, electrosensing, nanomagnetism and in applications such as art conservation, environment and sustainable energy. In all of these studies, the consortium will integrate (3D) quantitative transmission electron microscopy and X-ray spectroscopy with density functional calculations of the structural stability and optoelectronic properties as well as with accelerated molecular dynamics for chemical reactivity. The major challenge will be to link the different time and length scales of the complementary techniques in order to arrive at a complete understanding of the structure-functionality correlation. Through such knowledge, the design of nanostructures with desired functionalities and the incorporation of such structures in actual applications, such as e.g. highly selective sensing and air purification will become feasible. In addition, the techno-economic and environmental performance will be assessed to support the further development of those applications. Since the ultimate aim of this interdisciplinary consortium is to contribute to the societal impact of nanotechnology, the NanoLab will go beyond the study of simplified test materials and will focus on nanostructures for real-life, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly applications.

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Investigation of microbial long-distance electron transport via spectroscopy and electrochemistry. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2023

Abstract

Recently, long filamentous bacteria have been discovered in marine sediments, which are capable of generating and mediating electricity over centimeter-scale distances. These so-called "cable bacteria" have evolved a new mechanism for mediating electrical currents, which extends the known length scale of microbial electron transmission by two orders of magnitude. Cable bacteria are multi-cellular and possess a unique energy metabolism, in which electrons are passed on from cell to cell along a chain of 10.000 cells. This biological innovation equips them with a competitive advantage for survival within the seafloor environment. Microbial long-distance electron transport is a disruptive finding, both in terms of new biology as well as potential new technology. The capability of cable bacteria to transport electrons over centimeter distances implies that biological evolution must have somehow developed a highly conductive, organic structure. If these conductive structures inside cable bacteria could be somehow harnessed in an engineered way, this could pave the way for entirely new materials and applications in bio-electronics. To better grasp the wide reaching implications of long-distance electron transport, we need to better understand how the phenomenon works. Here, science is faced with an important challenge: it remains a conundrum how electrons are transported through a cable bacterium. Therefore, the prime objectives of this project are (1) to resolve the conductive structures and mechanism responsible for microbial long-distance transport and (2) to characterize their physical structure, chemical composition and electrical properties. The foundational pillar of this project are recently acquired data demonstrating that cable bacteria can be connected to electrodes and revealing that the cell envelope of cable bacteria contains highly conductive structures.

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Electrochemistry and nanostructured electrocatalysts for tackling substance abuse. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Substance abuse remains one of the global health and socioeconomic problems. It is one of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, i.e., SDG 3: "Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages". One of the goals within SDG 3.5 is to "Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol". Specifically, SDG 3d recognizes the need to "strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks". The key challenge to early warning, risk reduction and management of substance abuse is early and accurate detection. Electrochemical techniques allow for integration in hand-held devices for rapid detection of drugs and alcohol. However, the state-of-the-art fuel cellbased breath alcohol sensor (FCBrAS) still adopts expensive and old technology of the 70's (use of high amount of platinum electrocatalyst) despite the advances in materials electrochemical science and nanotechnology. The objective of this project is to bridge gaps in knowledge in electrochemistry of illicit drugs in oral fluids and alcohols, innovation in the FCBrAS to reduce mass-loading of expensive precious metals, and enhance selectivity and sensitivity in biological fluids.

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Innovative electrochemical multiplex biosensor for detection and quantification of clinically relevant circulating miRNAs (INFORM). 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Radical prostatectomy is currently the most used curative procedure in the treatment of localised prostate cancer (PCa). However, in 30-50% of interventioned patients Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) increases on post-operatory, meaning that the cancer has spread. The rise in PSA is due to imprecision in preoperative staging, suggesting patients already had distant, undetectable disease. Another issue is that elevated serum PSA is not specific to malignant prostate disease, it cannot differentiate between indolent tumours or those that are/will become life threatening. Fatal cancer is most often due to metastatic disease but histopathological examination of biopsy or traditional imaging methods fail to detect the early disseminated circulating biological information highlighting the need for approaches that can detect biomarkers of cancer spreading at an early stage. Circulating amounts of non-coding microRNA (miRNA) have been shown to have a biological impact and to be clinically associated with cancer and are now seen as a new class of biomarkers that will allow earlier and more accurate diagnosis. The objective of INFORM is to develop an innovative electrochemical multiplex biosensor for detection and quantification of a panel of clinically relevant circulating miRNAs in intermediate-risk PCa patients that will be submitted to potentially curative surgery. By focusing on the development, optimisation and validation of a biosensor for miRNA profiling in PCa, discrimination of patients with local disease from those with more advanced PCa will be possible. The biosensor will rely on the selectivity of the sandwich assays and on the sensitivity of the photoelectrochemical detection to quantify, at the sub-fM level, circulating miRNAs that are associated with PCa. The quantification of these overexpressed miRNAs will lead to a better overall management of the disease and allow for a more informed decision by the medical doctor, providing personalised medicine.

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Electrosensing smart device for multi-drug detection (E-DRUGSENS). 01/11/2019 - 30/10/2021

Abstract

The trafficking and use of illicit drugs represents a serious threat to the well-being of society, with severe health, economic, and political implications. Belgium plays a central role in Europe's drug issues, being the country with the largest volume of cocaine seized, while also being one of the main producers of amphetamine and MDMA. To effectively monitor passing cargo, luggage and people on the presence of illicit drugs, customs services and law enforcement need quick and selective tests to screen suspicious powders on-site. This way, immediate action can be undertaken before the sample is sent for expensive and time-consuming analysis in the lab. The currently used colour tests have poor reliability, resulting in a large number of false positives and false negatives. I therefore want to develop a portable electrochemical smart device for fast, low cost, highly accurate and simultaneous detection of illicit drugs on-site. In the proposed strategy, chemometric algorithms will convert the raw electrochemical data into an easy read-out on a smartphone (mobile application) for users without scientific backgrounds. The insights gained in the development of this sensor will have a broad impact since the application on drugs can be expanded to other end users than law enforcement, such as emergency physicians. The approach can also be adapted to other analytes such as antibiotics.

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Combining photoelectrochemistry and voltammetry: towards a mobile electrosensor for phenolics in industrial wastewater. 01/11/2019 - 30/10/2021

Abstract

The amount of chemicals produced is increasing every year resulting in a higher amount of endocrine disrupting chemicals such as phenols (12 million tonnes in 2016). Phenols are used in, for example, the production of plastics, resins and as antibacterial agents. These chemicals find their way into the water and cause detrimental effects on both human and wildlife health. Although efforts have been made to raise awareness on the toxicity of these contaminants, there is still no strict regulation for phenols. Consequently, there is a need for on-site powerful screening techniques to monitor these phenols, and to outcompete commercial test kits with have a long measurement time and are non-selective and not sensitive enough. Therefore, my aim is to develop a highly sensitive and selective mobile electrosensor for the detection of phenols in industrial wastewater, based on a combination of photoelectrochemistry and voltammetry. The mobile sensor has a rapid response, is cheap, easy-to-use and the results can be easily interpreted by non-trained staff by the use of an app on a smartphone together with a wireless potentiostat.

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Border detection of illicit drugs and precursors by highly accurate electrosensors (BorderSens). 01/09/2019 - 31/08/2023

Abstract

Combining robust sensor technologies with the inherent advantages of electrochemical strategies, nano-molecularly imprinted polymers, and multivariate and pattern data analysis, BorderSens will enable highly accurate selective detection of trace levels of illicit drugs and precursors. With borders being important gateways for the entrance of illicit drugs and their precursors, custom and border control authorities are facing pertaining challenges to detect such dangerous substances and safeguard the public. The main challenges posed by currently used on-site methods to detect illicit drugs and precursors are low accuracy, in the case of colour tests, and high cost and low portability, in the case of spectroscopic tests. In the light of a pressing need for better drug test systems at EU borders, the ultimate research aim of the BorderSens is to develop a portable, wireless single prototype device with the capability to quickly test for different types of drugs, precursors and adulterants/cutting agents, with outstanding accuracy and reduced false positives and false negatives. BorderSens will demonstrate the innovative technological solutions at seven demonstrations sites at EU borders with end-users and ensure exploitation plans guaranteeing strong impact. BorderSens brings together universities, a big manufacturer of electrochemical sensors, a specialised SME, ten endusers i.e. forensic institutes, police forces and border authorities, and a high quality external advisory board, to provide an excellent scientific-technical perspective and a straightforward exploitation route, with great impact on the safety of EU citizens.

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Electrochemical sensing of drugs of abuse (ESENSE). 01/08/2019 - 31/07/2021

Abstract

In the VLAIO innovation mandate, the spin off trajectory for electrochemical sensing devices will be explored. In first instance, all actions will be focused on the detection of drugs of abuse, with cocaine as the first target.

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Molecular design of 'Frozen Aptamers': Aptamers with enhanced properties by covalent and non-covalent stabilization using functionalized nucleotides: a combined modelling, NMR and electrochemistry approach. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

The on-site and higly selective detection of cocaine and other important target analytes such as antibiotic residues in waste water remains a challenging area of research. In this project, we wish to better understand and eventually improve analytical detection systems that use short DNA sequences for selective recognition of molecules of interest – called aptamers – followed by the generation of electrical signals upon binding.To achieve this we will first study the fundamental influence of structure and flexibility of aptamers on binding and current generation. This will further be mapped using computer modelling, NMR spectroscopy and ITC measurements. After obtaining structural knowledge, we aim to chemically stabilize the high affinity aptamers by introduction of chemically modified building blocks in the aptamer nucleic acid sequence. The additional functional groups thus introduced in the aptamer should allow to enhance the stability of the folded ligand binding state of the aptamer. In this way, we hope to contribute to the development of more robust apasensors. This should ultimately and on the long term lead to improved, robust, simple and mobile devices allowing to be handled on-site in different fields of application (e.g. law enforcement agencies, medical care environment, food industry).

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Elucidating the mechanism of microbial long-distance electron transport. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Recently, long filamentous "cable bacteria" have been discovered, which are capable of mediating large electrical currents over centimeter-scale distances. This finding extends the known length scale of microbial electron transmission by three orders of magnitude, and implies that biological evolution has somehow generated a highly conductive, organic structure. This is remarkable as biological materials are known to be poorly conductive. Microbial long-distance electron transport is a disruptive finding, both in terms of new biology as well as in terms of new technology. If the conductive structures inside cable bacteria could be somehow harnessed in an engineered way, this could pave the way for entirely new materials and applications in bio-electronics. To better grasp the wide reaching implications, we need to better understand the phenomenon of microbial long-distance electron transport. Yet presently, it remains a conundrum how electrons are transported through cable bacteria. Recently we obtained a breakthrough by connecting cable bacteria to electrodes and measuring the electrical current. These data demonstrate that the cell envelope of cable bacteria contains highly conductive structures. The prime objectives of this project are to resolve the physical structure and chemical composition of these conductive structures. Additionally, we will determine the underlying mechanism of electron transport and the electrical properties of the conductive structures.

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Highly visible light responsive black titania for photo-electrochemical applications: the electrosensing of polyphenols in flow mode. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Recent advances in extending the light absorption range of titania (TiO2) into the visible region has resulted in a new material, i.e. black TiO2 with a bandgap around 1.5 eV. Black TiO2 is a promising candidate for photo-(electro)catalysis under near infrared light owing to its narrow band gap and its improved electronic conductivity which only limited attention has been paid to it to use as a photoelectrochemical sensor. Using photo-electrocatalysts in stationary electrochemical systems commonly face poisoning phenomena due to the generated product seriously affecting the electrochemical detection. In order to improve the recyclability of the photo-electrocatalyst, a flow photoelectrochemical cell is the best choice due to continues movement of a carrier solution to the electrode surface. The combination of a flow cell and an electrochemical setup integrates the benefit of two systems such as high mass diffusion, much lower amount of sample requirements, while warranting strong signals and a high detection sensitivity. The core idea of my proposal is to synthesize and exploit black (reduced) titania as a highly visible light responsive material in a flow analysis setup to detect polyphenols via photo-electrochemistry.

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Synergy of plasmonic structures, affinity elements and photosensitizers for electrosensing of pharmaceuticals 01/08/2018 - 31/07/2021

Abstract

The main objective of the PLASMON-ELECTROLIGHT project is to elaborate an efficient sensing strategy to measure pharmaceuticals. The detection technique will be developed from an original photoelectrochemical detection strategy that is boosted by advanced photosensitizers, plasmonic enhancement, and affinity recognition. The photoactive hybrid materials must be designed carefully through rational choice of photosensitizers and metallic nanostructures, theoretical modeling, and experimental correlations. Next, the materials will be combined with biorecognition elements and employed as photoelectrochemical sensor. Our objectives also include a better understanding of the mechanism for plasmonic enhancement of photosensitizers' activity, developing new photoreactive materials and better methods to tests them. This will contribute to different field of chemical sensing, material science, and energy conversion.

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A singlet oxygen electrosensing strategy for the detection of phenolic contaminants. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

In 2016, around 12 million tonnes of phenol was produced for various processes such as the production of plastics, antibiotics and dyes. Through industrial and municipal waste, the phenolic compounds leach into the water reservoirs and can pose a threat to human health. There are several EU laws which regulate these contaminants however, these laws are sometimes outdated, vague and implementation in practice falls short. Therefore to gain more insight in the current situation of phenolic contaminants screening methods are crucial. Current enzymatic sensors studied in literature show an improved sensitivity compared to traditional methods due to the accumulation of detectable species, but have poor stability and need additional reagents. Therefore I want to develop a sensor which overcomes the drawbacks of enzymatic sensors but retains its improved sensitivity. My aim is to develop a sensitive, rapid and low cost electrochemical sensor with an ease of interpretation of results by non-specialists (through the use of an app on a smartphone with integrated LED). In the proposed detection strategy, a modified sensor will generate a change in current in the presence of phenolic contaminants upon illumination by a LED.

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Photosensitizers generating singlet oxygen: emerging analytical (bio)sensing tools. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

In this project it will be shown that molecular photosensitizers generating singlet oxygen under illumination, combined with electrochemical detection analysis, can efficiently adopt detection schemes based on enzymes, and thus overcome the drawbacks of current bioanalysis. I will generate a new framework for bio-inspired sensing and may find applications in many other (bio)analytical areas.

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Environmental analysis and the added value of electrochemistry for the detection of environmentally important molecules. 28/03/2016 - 27/03/2026

Abstract

Two research lines can be found in this project: Reinvigorating the research group Environmental Analysis (1) and the development of electrochemical sensors (2). Both research lines can be linked by selecting target molecules with environmental interest when developing electrochemical sensor devices. The electrochemistry research line is based on the expertise of the applicant in the field of (bio)electrochemistry and deals with the development of highly selective electrode materials for the detection of environmentally important compounds. As different catalysts and target molecules can be selected, several applications can be achieved.

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Art Technical Research and Preservation of Historical Mixed-Media Ensembles: 'Enclosed Gardens' (ARTGARDEN). 15/12/2015 - 15/03/2022

Abstract

The ArtGarden research project will test and develop an efficient ("best practices") matrix (tool - protocol) for monitoring, imaging and documenting (art-technical), fragile historic mixed-media objects. This will be used to facilitate decision making during conservation and preservation practice.

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Induce circularity in critical consumables: understanding the variables in chemical labs. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2020

Abstract

Yearly, an estimated 5.5 million tonnes of lab plastic waste is created in research labs worldwide. Reducing the plastic consumables in the chemistry sector has a significant impact on the reduction of the total amount of waste. Currently, most lab consumables are only used once and then disposed as hazardous waste. This project aims to support the chemistry sector to grow towards a circular economy, which is one of the pillars of Essenscia, the Belgian federation for chemistry and life sciences industry. Within this transition, the objective is to design out waste. The research proposal aims to develop a theoretical framework on how to deal with the variables that influence the design and implementation of replacing consumables by longer-living alternatives. The resulting conclusions will be of importance for production industry of chemical equipment as well as chemical labs (including procurement) and the recycling sector. The research is structured towards identification, influence and relation of (i) the material variables, (ii) design variables, (iii) usage variables, and (iv) context variables. In a first phase a wide exploration will be performed, to achieve this six research groups are willing to collaborate. In the next phases, the focus will be on each group of variables, in the pre-determined order mentioned before. The results of these foci will build upon each other to come together in a complete theory including all the variables.

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Photoelectrochemical sensing of an antituberculosis drug - rifampicin. 01/10/2019 - 31/03/2020

Abstract

Rifampicin (RIF) is an essential antibiotic from the rifamycins group, introduced for human use in 1967. The intensive use of antibiotics, including RIF, for human, veterinary and agricultural purposes, results in the continuous release of the drugs and their metabolites into the environment. This leads to the development of antibiotic resistance genes and antibiotic resistant bacteria, affecting the therapeutic effect against human and animal pathogens, jeopardizing the treatment of some infections. Besides the problem of the adverse effects of the presence of RIF in the environment and the problem of antibiotic resistance in general, there is a need for drug analysis during various stages of pharmaceutical development. More specific it concerns the analytical investigation of bulk drug materials, pharmaceutical formulations and quality control (in relation to impurities and degradation products of pharmaceutical substances). Therefore, there is a necessity to estimate RIF and its major metabolites, 25-desacetylrifampicin and 3-formyl rifampicin, levels in biological, pharmaceutical and environmental samples. The aim of this project is to develop a robust, sensitive and selective photoelectrochemical method for RIF detection, in environmental and pharmaceutical samples, based on disposable carbon screen printed electrodes modified with an innovative hybrid material based on photosensitizer. In a first phase, the photo-electrochemical detection of RIF will be optimized in classical buffered solutions (e.g. variation of electrochemical parameters, concentrations of photosensitizers, pH). Secondly, the detection will be performed in real samples. Finally, it will be explored whether the photo-electrochemical detection can be boosted by plasmonic particles.

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Voltammetric fingerprints: data analysis & valorization action. 01/05/2019 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Detection and identification of illegal drugs is a major task of both police and customs authorities in order to prevent drug-dealing and consumption in our society. An accurate test is crucial to support this process. Within the AXES research group at UAntwerp, a new method was developed to achieve a fast and accurate detection of cocaine at low cost, using an electrochemical sensor. By using this method, the limitations and restrictions of existing tests can be tackled (i.e. interpretation sensitivity, false positives/negatives, and environmental influences). The developed technique is currently operational in a lab setting, but needs to be adjusted and translated to be effective on location. For this reason it is crucial in this phase of the research to focus on the development of a software to translate the scientific data into a simple readout for non-experts and on an appropriate valorization plan to bring the final product as close as possible to the market. Thus, we aim within the present project to (1) develop methods for data treatment and analysis which will strikingly improve accuracy of drug detection, (2) thoroughly test and verify the final portable prototype product with future end users, and (3) built a sound valorization plan. It should be emphasized that the scope of the data analysis is broader than only drugs detection. The developed methods for data treatment and analysis will also be used in future for the interpretation of the voltammetric fingerprints of other target molecules such as antibiotics.

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Coupling the inhibition effect of bacteria with amperometric readout for the detection of antibiotics (BACSENS). 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Most of the farmers and industries rely on the microbial inhibition tests as a screening tool for a broad range of antibiotics because it is natural, intuitive, and simple enough to be operated by non-specialists outside laboratories. Unfortunately, it suffers from drawbacks such as long analysis time and sensitivity issues. To improve the on-site screening test, we introduce the pioneering idea to couple cost effective and sensitive amperometric sensors with bacterial inhibition tests. Our method will lower the risks for public health and operational costs for industries.

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Narcoreader: product development. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

Detection and identification of illegal drugs is a major task of both police and customs officials in order to prevent circulation and dealing in our society. An optimal test is crucial to support this process. Within the AXES research group, a new method was developed to achieve a fast and accurate detection of cocaine at low cost, using an electrochemical sensor. By using this method, the limitations and restrictions of existing tests can be tackled (i.e. interpretation sensitivity, false positives/negatives, and environmental influences). The developed technique is currently operational in a lab setting, but needs to be adjusted and translated to be effective on location. Currently, within other projects, the method is optimized to achieve multi-drug detection. This POC project focusses on the development of a user-friendly and wearable device for drug detection that can be used by different authorities without scientific knowledge or training. By means of methods from Product Development, the current lab setting will be translated into a usable product for reliable testing (in typical Belgian whether conditions, wearing gloves, in an environment where no tables or other surfaces are available). The project includes thorough testing and verification with future end users.

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Support EU-project BorderSens. 03/07/2018 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Combining robust sensor technologies with the inherent advantages of electrochemical strategies, nano-molecularly imprinted polymers, and multivariate and pattern data analysis, BorderSens will enable highly accurate selective detection of trace levels of illicit drugs and precursors. With borders being important gateways for the entrance of illicit drugs and their precursors, custom and border control authorities are facing pertaining challenges to detect such dangerous substances and safeguard the public. The main challenges posed by currently used on-site methods to detect illicit drugs and precursors are low accuracy, in the case of colour tests, and high cost and low portability, in the case of spectroscopic tests. In the light of a pressing need for better drug test systems at EU borders, the ultimate research aim of the BorderSens is to develop a portable, wireless single prototype device with the capability to quickly test for different types of drugs, precursors and adulterants/cutting agents, with outstanding accuracy and reduced false positives and false negatives. BorderSens will demonstrate the innovative technological solutions at seven demonstrations sites at EU borders with end-users and ensure exploitation plans guaranteeing strong impact. BorderSens brings together universities, a big manufacturer of electrochemical sensors, a specialised SME, ten end-users i.e. forensic institutes, police forces and border authorities, and a high quality external advisory board, to provide an excellent scientific-technical perspective and a straightforward exploitation route, with great impact on the safety of EU citizens.

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The Biomolecular Interaction Platform (BIP) at UAntwerp. 01/05/2018 - 30/04/2021

Abstract

Physical and functional interactions between biomolecules play pivotal roles in all aspects of human health and disease. Gaining a greater understanding of these biomolecular interactions will further expand our understanding of diseases such as cancer, metabolic diseases and neurodegeneration. At UAntwerp, 7 research groups have joined forces to obtain the absolutely necessary equipment to measure these interactions with a Biomolecular Interactions Platform (BIP). This will allow to detect interactions and precisely determine binding affinities between any kind of molecule, from ions and small molecules to high-molecular weight and multi-protein complexes. The BIP will also allow to identify collateral off- targets, crucial in the drug discovery field. Access to a BIP will strongly support ongoing research projects and bring research within the BIP-consortium to a higher level. Since biomolecular interactions are highly influenced by the methodology, it is recommended to measure the interaction by several, independent techniques and continue with the most appropriate one. For this reason, the consortium aims at installing a BIP, consisting of several complementary instruments that each measure biomolecular interactions based on different physical principles. They wish to expand the existing Isothermal Titration Calorimetry with two complementary state-of-the- art techniques: MicroScale Thermophoresis and Grating- Coupled waveguide Interferometry.

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Screen printing facilities and high resolution Raman imaging of (printed) surfaces and materials. 01/05/2018 - 30/04/2021

Abstract

This Hercules proposal concerns screen printing facilities. Screen printing facilities enable UAntwerp to pioneer in the field of electronics, sensors and photocatalysis by (1) developing unique (photo)sensors/detectors (e.g. electrochemical sensors, photovoltaics, photocatalysis) by printing (semi)conducting materials on substrates, (2) designing parts of Internet of Things modules with more flexibility and more dynamically, meanwhile creating a unique valorization potential and IP position.

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W&T cooperation: scholarship B. KAUR. 01/08/2017 - 31/01/2019

Abstract

The objective of the present study is to design carbon nanostructures decorated with metal nanoparticles for the ultra-trace electrochemical sensing and bio-sensing of important illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. This project fits within the efforts to develop a simple, rapid and robust analytical platform for the sensitive and selective analysis of cocaine and heroin in the presence of adulterants.

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Novel electrochemical strategies for rapid, on-site multiscreening of illicit drugs (NARCOREADER). 01/05/2017 - 30/04/2019

Abstract

This project proposes to develop novel, inexpensive and portable multisensing devices adapted for the rapid on-site screening of a number of illicit drugs, in saliva, using recent advances in biomimetic materials coupled with electrochemistry.

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Shaping up oligonucleotides: Structure-function relationships for aptamers and non-coding RNA. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Oligonucleotides are small pieces of DNA or RNA with a specific sequence. This sequence results in a unique 3D structure which determines their function, but better methods are needed to study this structure. Oligonucleotides occur naturally and are essential in all life forms, but can also be made synthetically. They play a role in e.g. gene regulation, but also in the defence against bacterial and viral infections, and are therefore interesting targets for therapeutic purposes. Synthetic oligonucleotides called aptamers, which can interact with specific molecules, are now also considered for sensor applications. There is a rapidly growing need for efficient and fast methods for the characterization of oligonucleotide sequence, modifications, interactions and 3D structure. I propose an approach, which is now well-established for proteins but new for oligonucleotides, that can specify some of these characteristics and will lead to a better understanding of the sequence-structure-function relationship of DNA/RNA. In addition, understanding these structural properties will result in the ability to better design synthetic oligonucleotides in the future. By gaining insights in the structure and function of oligonucleotides, it becomes possible to use them in various applications such as sensors, for targeted drug delivery and the development of new antibody-like drugs which will result in better and more targeted treatment of diseases.

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Electrochemical detection of contaminants. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Antibiotic resistance (AMR) is a global phenomenon, compromising the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of bacterial infections. In this project antibiotics will be detected electrochemically.

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osMID – on-site multiscreening of illicit drugs. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

The trafficking and use of illicit drugs represents a threat to the well-being of the society. The methods currently used to identify illicit drugs sometimes lack sensitivity and specificity, thus new sensing technologies are required. We propose to develop novel electrochemical multisensing strategies adapted for the rapid on-site screening of illicit drugs using recent advances in surface modification coupled with electrochemistry.

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Electrochemical (bio)sensor development. 01/02/2016 - 30/04/2016

Abstract

Within this project, the bio-electrochemical sensing strategies for cocaine and antibiotics will be further explored. By the immobilization of aptamers, one could address the current problems with the existing sensing devices, i.e. a lack of selectivity.

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Fingerprinting particulate matter for urban monitoring and source apportionment techniques. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Among air pollutants, particulate matter (PM) poses the greatest risk to public health. Atmospheric PM is currently monitored by a network of air monitoring stations, but its limited spatial resolution impedes to properly monitor the high spatial variability in PM local exposure. On the other hand, urban vegetation works as a reliable passive PM collector, as it provides a natural surface for deposition and immobilization of pollutants. In this research project, urban green is thus used as a bio-indicator for atmospheric PM (biomonitoring), where each leaf plant can work as a monitoring station per se. Within airborne PM, iron and other metals are of particular interest. Therefore, magnetic biomonitoring of leaves has been extensively used as a rapid and cost-effective tool to assess urban PM exposure, however, the discrimination of PM sources based on magnetic analyses remains yet a less explored topic. PM source attribution mainly depends on the chemical characteristics (composition and structure of the particles), size distribution and even shape properties, therefore, a component of particle analysis is also necessary to understand the different sources of PM. The strategy of this project is based on PM fingerprinting the major urban PM sources (e.g. roadside and train traffic) in terms of its magnetic signatures, composition and microscopic form, and on how the different magnetic parameters can be used to identify them in the mixed-source urban environment. The main goal is then to investigate the applicability of using magnetic biomonitoring of urban leaves as an effective source apportionment methodology/tool for PM exposure. The application of such a methodology would help on delineating high-polluted PM areas while understanding their major PM emission sources, which can be of great use for e.g. impact assessment studies and policy implementation of targeted PM mitigation strategies.

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ENVIROMICS, environment toxicology and technology for a durable world. Development and application of diagnostic instruments for industry and policy. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Environmental toxicology (named ecotoxicology further on) is by name a multidisciplinary field involving a wide span of scientifical domains These domains cover areas as biology (and several sub-disciplines thereof), ecology, biochemistry, toxicology, molecular genetics, industrial and process chemistry etc On top of that it touches the sociological field in terms of human and environmental hazard and risk, and even economy by setting environmental standards, thereby directly influencing industrial processes Water treatment technology and risk assessment are both important answers and tools offered to problems put forward by ecotoxicology Both offer and raise questions and problems to be answered It is my believe that ecotoxicology, in its broadest sense, holds the mother key in the solution but has yet to fully gain it.

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A joint action of aptamers and electrochemistry to sense all β-lactam antibiotics selectively and sensitively at MRL level in milk. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

In this project, the detection of all ß-lactam antibiotics at MRL (maximum residu limit) level in raw milk is aimed by using an aptamer-based electrochemical sensor platform. Once a fundamental electrochemical study is performed to unravel the redox properties of our target molecules, the via SELEX selected aptamers will be immobilized on the electrode surfaces by using a novel immobilization strategy, followed by an electrochemical registration.

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The development of a selective finger tip biosensor for the on-site detection of cocaïne (APTADRU). 15/12/2014 - 31/01/2018

Abstract

Electrochemical "aptasensors" are very attractive for monitoring the presence of microtraces of drugs of abuse as they are fast, portable, extremely sensitive and selective towards target molecules. This project will develop and test all the necessary components for a device suitable for cocaine detection, and implement them into a finger-tip glove sensor for on-site use.

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Research project VMM – heavy metals. 01/10/2014 - 31/10/2015

Abstract

Examination of instrumental parameters and current validation for the studied heavy metals in order to determine whether the sensitivity of the present apparatus can still be improved. Investigation into the cause of the large deviation between the ICP-MS and XRF results, in particular, for the element antimony (Sb). Investigation of different types of filters for sampling heavy metals. Optimization of XRF devices for elemental analysis, especially in terms of the projects on chemical characterization. This concerns the following elements: Al, As, Ba, Ca, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, K, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Ti, V and Zn.

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Utilization of magnetic nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes for the fabrication of electrochemical sensors for the determination of some important biological and pharmaceutical compounds 16/06/2014 - 15/12/2014

Abstract

This project focuses on the development of new electrochemical sensors based on nano materials. Nano materials offer many advantages due to their unique properties, including a high surface area density, so that a larger number of binding sites for a specific analyte is created. Within this project, magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) and carbon nanotubes (CNT) will act as a sensing platform for the detection of biomedical and pharmaceutical components. Magnetic nanoparticles (MNP) already have some applications in various fields such as biology and diagnostics. On the other hand, the subtle electronic properties of CNTs suggest that they, when used as electrode material in electrochemical sensors, have the ability to promote electron transfer reactions. The functionalization of nano materials offers many perspectives, such as an improved dispersion in various processes. The electrochemical and morphological characterization of such electrode material is the main focus of this PhD-project, next to the study of the activity of these sensors towards biologically and pharmaceutically relevant substances such as neurotransmitters, proteins, etc.

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Towards nanomaterial-modified aptasensors for the detection of environmentally important molecules (postdoc. fellowship E. HAMIDI-ASL, Iran) 01/06/2014 - 30/11/2015

Abstract

The main purpose of this study is twofold: (i) investigating the abilities of noble metal nanostructures in improvement of biosensors functions; (ii) comparing the performances of the electrochemical biosensors modified by nanostructures with different shapes (for example gold nanoparticles, gold nanorodes, gold hollow nanospheres, gold nanocubes and gold nanocages), all in aquaculture.

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Air Identification Registration for Cultural Heritage: Enhancing Climate Quality (AIRCHECQ). 01/12/2013 - 31/05/2019

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Development of technology within the "label free detection systems" technology platform for the fast and accurate detection of small molecules 01/06/2013 - 31/05/2014

Abstract

The project aims at supporting the claims of two UAntwerp patents. The technology protected by these patents offer an alternative to "label free detection systems" on the market today, and cover a new platform for fast and accurate detection of selected small molecules.

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Towards new approaches in bioelectrochemistry – Targeted immobilization of globins on porous materials. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

The project aims at the development of biosensors for small molecules by incorporating globin proteins in nanoporous inorganic or hybrid organic-inorganic materials. This involves globin purification, synthesis and modification of the porous materials, and realization of the electrochemical cell. The structural and electronic properties of the globins will be monitored during the process with resonance Raman and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy.

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Targeted immobilization of globin proteins on porous materials for electrochemical applications. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

In this project, we aim at the targeted immobilization of heme proteins (globins) in different organic/inorganic matrices opening the way to new approaches in electrochemistry. The ideal heme proteins in this context are globins, in which the function of the heme group is controlled by the surrounding protein matrix. Moreover, several globins show redox cycling properties.

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Influence of the detection method in impedimetric aptasensors: profound data analysis and modelling of the Electrochemical Impedance Spectra. 01/01/2013 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

Impedimetric aptasensors consist out of two key elements: an aptamer as biologic recognition element and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) as detection method. A crucial and challenging step in EIS is the interpretation of its data. Therefore, the main goal of this project is a profound analysis of the obtained EIS data, not only limited to the reliability of the data, but also concerning the most appropriate modelling procedure of the experimental data.

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Feasibility study for the use of (modified) gelatin as a matrix for biomolecules with the aim of developing electrochemical biosensors. 01/01/2013 - 16/06/2013

Abstract

To accomplish a sensitive monitoring in health care, food industry and environmental monitoring, there is a high need for rapid, inexpensive and reliable detection methods. Electrochemical biosensors contain these characteristics and are thus ideal for detection of specific target molecules. The main questions of this research are: "Is gelatin, or modified gelatin, a good matrix for biomolecules?", or even more: "Does a (modified) gelatin matrix provide opportunities for the development of sustainable, high quality biosensors?"

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Electrochemical aptasensors targetting antibiotics and PCBs 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

The project aims to develop a new methodology to study biomolecule/small molecule interactions. The method is based on the construction of an amperometric sensor. This sensor/electrode surface is coated with a bio-recognition element such as an aptamer or an enzyme. If needed, a biocompatible matrix and/or a linking agent will be foreseen to protect the bio-elements towards the bare electrode surface. Small target molecules (such as antibiotics and polychlorinated biphenyls) are injected into the system and the corresponding amperometric signals of the biosensor are recorded. Because of the stability and the selectivity of specific bio-recognition elements towards their target molecules, a robust and selective biosensor can be developed.

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Controlled immobilization of aptamers onto electrode surfaces. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

This project fits within the research line in which electrochemical affinity sensors for the detection veterinary antimicrobial drugs (antibiotics) in dairy products are developed. Aptamers as more robust and effective biorecognition elements will be immobilized on electrode surface. Fast, cost-effective and sensitive electroanalytical methods will be applied to achieve required analytical characteristics. The prepared sensors will be tested on real samples.

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Infrastructure for soft and delicate matter imaging. 26/04/2012 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

"Soft matter" is anything from a well-defined term. It is used to represent a broad class of materials including colloids, polymers, biological specimens and biomaterials. Although the use of such materials becomes increasingly important in nanotechnology, a successful implementation can only be reached through a thorough structural investigation at the nanolevel. Electron microscopy is the most widely used technique to study inorganic (nano)materials, even at the atomic scale. Such investigations however, are far from straightforward when soft matter is considered. Therefore this application aims at an environmental scanning electron microscope as well as a cryo ultramicrotome.

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Sensors for detection of endocrine disruptors in wastewater and sludge and their treatment using green technology (postdoc.beurs A. JAHANGIR, India). 01/01/2012 - 31/03/2013

Abstract

This present proposal focuses on a method for determination of organic pollutants, e.g. in seawater. This aspect is rather weakly present so far in SHIPFLUX and it could be significantly improved by the present proposal. Endocrine disruptors may or may not be very prominent in atmospheric ship emission but their presence has not been investigated at all so far. But most of all, the developed methodology can probably be expanded to a series of other organic compounds in the marine environment. Development of a direct sensor for organic compounds would advance and simplify the routine monitoring of such compounds significantly.

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Optimization and integration of analytical methods for characterizing particulate air pollutants. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

In the past, analytical methodologies have been developed for the characterization of particulate air pollutants. However, further optimization is needed in order to integrate their complementary output into one model. Therefore, efforts will be made to develop a tool which will automatically generate (size-dependent) compositional information on airborne dust samples.

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Environmental analysis and the added value of electrochemistry for the detection of environmentally important molecules. 28/03/2011 - 27/03/2016

Abstract

Two research lines can be found in this project: Reinvigorating the research group Environmental Analysis (1) and the development of electrochemical sensors (2). Both research lines can be linked by selecting target molecules with environmental interest when developing electrochemical sensor devices. The electrochemistry research line is based on the expertise of the applicant in the field of (bio)electrochemistry and deals with the development of highly selective electrode materials for the detection of environmentally important compounds. As different catalysts and target molecules can be selected, several applications can be achieved.

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Preventive conservation/presentation in the museum Plantin-Moretus/Prentenkabinet, Antwerp. 01/09/2008 - 30/06/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand Musea en Erfgoed Antwerpen vzw. UA provides Musea en Erfgoed Antwerpen vzw research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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