Coated Transdermal Sensors for Diagnostic Applications

Key Information

Academic Supervisors: Dr S Sharma and Prof K Lewis

Industry Supervisor: Prof C Hopkins TriTech Institute, Hywel Dda University Health Board

Expected Interview Date: May 2022


People develop respiratory failure for a variety of reasons including chronic severe lung disease, chest wall or spinal problems, neuromuscular disease, severe obesity, sedating medications or often a combination of the above.

The most important way to diagnose and monitor respiratory failure is measuring blood oxygen (low) and blood carbon dioxide (high). We can measure oxygen by non-invasive sensors that measure refracted infra-red light on finger-tip probes. However, this method cannot reliably measure blood levels of carbon dioxide or levels of acidity (pH). Venous blood samples are also not accurate to measure carbon dioxide. Therefore, clinicians have to sample arterial (or sometimes capillary) blood which entails painful, sometimes technically difficult (missing the target), time-consuming, and occasionally dangerous needle insertion into arteries (including bleeding, nerve damage). There is also a short delay whilst blood samples are taken to measuring machines and technical inaccuracies can occur during sampling and transport with e.g., trapped oxygen bubbles or oxygen consumption by red cells.

The ability to safely measure a surrogate of arterial carbon dioxide and pH would have immediate and profound clinical benefits. To date no-one has developed transcutaneous measurements that are accurate or reliable enough to inform clinical care. The skin interstitial fluid (ISF) is a treasure trove of biomarkers and acts as a window to the body. It can be tapped in a minimally invasive manner using microneedle arrays. These microneedle arrays can be modified with metallic and functional coatings to multiplexed electrochemical sensing devices.

Project Aims: This project will aim to:

1. Review literature and current practice within the continuous monitoring sensors to understand the current state of knowledge on functional metal coatings, polymeric coatings for bioreceptors and transdermal sensors.

2. Improve the theoretical understanding of the demands on microneedle array patches for continuous monitoring, sampling and diagnostic applications.

3. Complete lab trial work involving in vitro optimisation in tissue phantoms followed by pilot studies in clinical settings.

This multidisciplinary EngD studentship will be jointly supervised between Dr Sanjiv Sharma, Professor Keir Lewis and Professor Chris Hopkins. As part of this studentship, the candidate will be supported to gain engineering skills on device fabrication and translational research experience through collaborative working in clinical settings.  The successful candidate will be closely working with the local NHS and have unprecedented access to the expertise and facilities of the newly established TriTech Institute in Llanelli.                 

COATED M2A recognises applicants have a variety of backgrounds with different educational and research experiences. We do not expect applicants to be proficient users of any techniques /equipment mentioned, at the time of application. Our focus is to upskill our participants and training will be provided.

COATED M2A in the Faculty of Science and Engineering is a Swansea University initiative which provides postgraduate research training in partnership with industry, providing access to world class laboratories and a wealth of academic and industry expertise. COATED M2A is committed to providing top quality research opportunities within an inclusive environment, funded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Swansea University and Industry partners.

Interwoven through the research study are business, technical and entrepreneurial courses, designed to support and prepare participants for a senior role in industry or academia, on completion of their studies.

The Athena SWAN charter recognises work undertaken by institutions to advance gender equality. The College of Engineering is an Athena SWAN bronze award holder and is committed to addressing unequal gender representation. Applications from women and other under-represented groups are particularly welcomed. All applications will be anonymised prior to short listing.

Are you considering making an application and have questions you’d like answered? Come and have a 1-2-1 chat with us at our applicant surgeries (Link) . We encourage all applicants to review our hints and tips document found here

Sponsoring Company: TriTech Institute


Candidates must normally hold a minimum undergraduate degree at 2.1 level (or Non-UK equivalent as defined by Swansea University), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level.

Normally, we would expect candidates to have met the University’s English Language requirements (e.g., IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5+ in each component) by point of application.

Full eligibility can be found at


EngD Only – Fees at UK rate and Stipend £20,000.00, both for the period of four years.

For full details on funding eligibility, please refer to the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) Website. Student Eligibility | M2A (

Candidates must have the legal right to live/work in the UK at the start of their studies (student visas do not apply)

Closing Date: 3rd April 2022

Start Date: 1st October 2022

Applications and informal enquiries about this studentship should be directed by email to:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *