Inspired by the paper-folding art of origami, chemists at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a 3-D paper sensor that may be able to test for diseases such as malaria and HIV for less than 10 cents a pop.
Such low-cost, "point-of-care" sensors could be incredibly useful in the developing world, where the resources often don't exist to pay for lab-based tests, and where, even if the money is available, the infrastructure often doesn't exist to transport biological samples to the lab.
The folded, 3-D sensors, developed by Crooks and doctoral student Hong Liu, can test for more substances in a smaller surface area and provide results for more complex tests. “Anybody can fold them up,” says Crooks. “You don’t need a specialist, so you could easily imagine an NGO with some volunteers folding these things up and passing them out. They’re easy to produce, so the production could be shifted to the clientele as well. They don’t need to be made in the developed world.”