Artistic science

Engineering students at Florida University have discovered a simple way to make microelectrodes using an airbrush.

Microelectrodes are highly sensitive, fingernail-sized devices used in consumer, research and medical products such as glucose monitors for diabetics.

The industry standard for manufacturing microelectrodes uses screen printing, but the students didn’t have access to a screen printer, so one of the students, who airbrushes model aeroplanes, suggested they try that approach.

After trials and tests they perfected the technique and used fully airbrushed microelectrodes to create a hydrogen sensor.

As the process requires each electrode to be made individually or in small batches, it is best for small projects but it also vastly reduces the cost of equipment.

‘A screen printing machine useful for fabricating microelectrodes might cost $10,000, whereas you can buy an airbrush for less than $200,’ said Hugh Fan, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who oversaw the project. ‘So this is a useful technique for small, custom projects.’