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Graduate Student Earns National Grant to Present Research on New Hydration Sensor Material

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 11:23 am / June 7, 2018

Portrait of Pandhi

Graduate research at Boise State increasingly is becoming an internationally recognized gem of our institution – take for example the work of graduate student Twinkle Pandhi. The materials science doctoral student recently received a $2,000 grant to travel to 28th World Congress on Biosensors in Miami, Florida, June 12-15 – the largest biosensor conference in the field – to present her research on creating a new, flexible printed biosensor material that can be used to analyze individuals’ PH balance and hydration. The grant, funded by the National Science Foundation, was one of 11 nationally awarded to graduate students.

Pandhi’s research could have far-reaching impacts for athletes, astronauts and other groups for whom hydration monitoring is vitally important. Pandhi is a member of Boise State’s Advanced Nanomaterials and Manufacturing Laboratory, where she has been collaborating on her research with the NASA Ames Research Center and NASA scientist Jessica Koehne.

“The international space station is equipped with a 3D printer and a 2D printer but the thing that is limiting those tools is the materials and procedures,” Pandhi explained. “Right now we’re working on prototypes that show how feasible it would be to print these sensors in space.”

Two students examine graphene

Twinkle Pandhi, right, and fellow grad student Courtney Hollar examine a sheet of graphene.

“NASA has increasing investments in research to enable In-Space Manufacturing (ISM) and In-Space Resource Utilization (ISRU). Additive manufacturing technologies and materials/ink development for additive manufacturing tools will play an important role in enabling NASA’s vision for these projects. Pandhi’s work and collaboration with NASA in this area has done a great deal to promote the reputation of Boise State University’s research aligned with ISM and ISRU, said David Estrada, chair of Pandhi’s dissertation committee.

At the conference, Pandhi will be presenting on fully printed graphene-based electrochemical electrode primed for wearable biosensors because it is both flexible and has unique electrical properties that make it highly electro-chemically active. The material has the potential for large-scale biosensor manufacturing that is more cost effective than traditional methods, which is what makes it ideal for space, military and athletic use.

“Athletic teams like to monitor hydration before a game to ensure they’re ready to perform,” Pandhi said. “But you can’t quantitatively analyze hydration levels just by talking and looking at athletes. These sensors could provide statistical, quantitative data using sweat to understand individuals’ biometrics, which is far less invasive than blood samples.”

Pandhi and Estrada, assistant professor of materials science and her mentor, hope to have a prototype of the full biosensor sensor completed within the next two years.