WASHINGTON (TIP): Ballpoint pens filled with high-tech bio-inks can be used to draw sensors directly on the skin to help detect glucose levels in diabetics, scientists say. The research leads to an era when anyone will be able to build sensors, anywhere, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

The team has developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly on the skin and sensors to measure pollution on leaves. Researchers envision sensors drawn directly on smartphones for personalized and inexpensive health monitoring or on external building walls for monitoring of toxic gas pollutants.

The team used pens, loaded with an ink that reacts to glucose, to draw reusable glucose-measuring sensors on a pattern printed on a transparent, flexible material which includes an electrode.

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