What is a biosensor?

For those who have not yet been introduced to the science behind a biosensor herein follows a short explanation — a biosensor is a device used for detection of specific chemical compounds in varying sorts of media. The most widely known biosensor is the glucose sensor used by diabetics for measuring the level of glucose in blood samples.

There are three fundamental components making up a biosensor. To begin, a specific and sensitive biological element serves the purpose of providing the first interaction with the compound of interest in the analyte. Secondly the system requires an enhancement of the signal obtained from the primary interaction between the biological element and the analyte. This component is described as a transducer, or the detector element. The detector provides a physicochemical reaction by its connection to the biological element, and by that the initial, and in most cases both weak and undetectable signal is transformed into a signal which can be read out in a variety of different ways depending on the design of the sensor. To mention one example, the signal could be photochemical — as in light being emitted upon the interaction of analyte and biological element.


Schematic image of the basic components of a biosensor.

This text has been written by Anna Eliasson, SensUs 2019 member of Uppsala University.

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