Imec and Holst Centre Demonstrate Versatile Single-Chip Sensor for Ion Detection in Fluids

Leuven (Belgium)—Nov. 24, 2015—Imec and Holst Centre (set-up by imec and TNO) have demonstrated a prototype of a single-chip electrochemical sensor for simultaneous detection of multiple ions in fluids. The demonstrator paves the way to small-sized and low-cost detection systems for agriculture, healthcare and lifestyle applications, food quality monitoring and water management. 

Imec and Holst Centre’s ion sensor solution is a generic platform that can be tailored towards specific applications. It enables efficient and low-cost monitoring, such as monitoring of nutrient concentrations in surface and waste water, both for agricultural applications and water quality. In the healthcare and lifestyle applications, it provides disposable point-of-care solutions, or conformable solutions for integration into patches. Depending on the application and the form factor, it can be mass produced through microfabrication or through screen-printing on inexpensive substrates such as glass or foil. As compared to commercial ion sensors, this bring a unique advantage in terms of low cost manufacturability, and size of the solution. Moreover, by changing the selective membranes on the electrodes, the sensor can be adopted to detect other ions.

The presented prototype is a handheld device that integrates a single-chip sensor with different electrodes that detect pH levels in a range from 2 to 10 at a 0.1 pH accuracy. For the chemical elements chloride (Cl-), sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), and nitrate (〖NO〗_3^-) -ranging from 10-4 M to 1 M ions- the sensor detects at a 10 percent accuracy. Benchmarked against other available single-ion sensors, imec’s prototype demonstrated comparable sensitivity and accuracy for a versatile multiple-ion solution.

“With small autonomous smart sensors that adapt to and wirelessly communicate with the environment and each other, imec aims to develop the building blocks that enable an Intuitive Internet of Things,” stated Kathleen Phillips, program director perceptive systems at imec. “Our scientists and engineers have reached an important breakthrough demonstrating the capabilities of our technology with this versatile single-chip sensor. As we continue to improve our sensor platform, develop sensors for other ions, integrate more sensors into a single system, and extend the lifetime of our sensor, imec will be at the nucleus in driving the advancements of smart connected systems. We invite industry to join our R&D program, become a partner to jointly develop new ion sensing applications and to bring this technology to the market.”


Imec and Holst Centre Demonstrate Versatile Single-Chip Sensor for Ion Detection in Fluids


About Holst Centre

Holst Centre is an independent R&D center that develops technologies for wireless autonomous sensor technologies and for flexible electronics, in an open innovation setting and in dedicated research trajectories. A key feature of Holst Centre is its partnership model with industry and academia based around shared roadmaps and programs. It is this kind of cross-fertilization that enables Holst Centre to tune its scientific strategy to industrial needs.
Holst Centre was set up in 2005 by imec (Flanders, Belgium) and TNO (The Netherlands) and is supported by local, regional and national governments. It is named after Gilles Holst, a Dutch pioneer in Research and Development and first director of Philips Research.
Located on High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Holst Centre benefits from, and contributes to, the state-of-the-art on-site facilities. Holst Centre has over 200 employees from some 28 nations and a commitment from over 40 industrial partners. For more information please visit

About imec

Imec performs world-leading research in nanoelectronics. Imec leverages its scientific knowledge with the innovative power of its global partnerships in ICT, healthcare and energy. Imec delivers industry-relevant technology solutions. In a unique high-tech environment, its international top talent is committed to providing the building blocks for a better life in a sustainable society. Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, Taiwan, USA, China, India and Japan. Its staff of about 2,300 people includes almost 700 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2014, imec's revenue (P&L) totaled 363 million euro. Further information on imec can be found at Stay up to date about what’s happening at imec with the monthly imec magazine, available for tablets and smartphones (as an app for iOS and Android), or via the website

Imec is a registered trademark for the activities of IMEC International (a legal entity set up under Belgian law as a "stichting van openbaar nut”), imec Belgium (IMEC vzw supported by the Flemish Government), imec the Netherlands (Stichting IMEC Nederland, part of Holst Centre which is supported by the Dutch Government), imec Taiwan (IMEC Taiwan Co.)and imec China (IMEC Microelectronics (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.) and imec India (Imec India Private Limited).


imec : Hanne Degans, Press officer and communications specialist, T: +32 16 28 17 69, Mobile : +32 486 06 51

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