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Materials science for advanced sensing: Nanomaterials, biomaterials, and quantum sensing at the forefront

Advanced sensing technologies are everywhere, from wearable gadgets with biosensors to vehicles with advanced driver-assistance systems. Materials play an integral role in sensing, providing mechanical structure, powering connections, and enabling the very essence of sensing itself.  Materials science breakthroughs constantly drive sensing innovations forward, making them essential for pushing the frontiers of sensing. 
The field of materials science is evolving in line with the tech landscape, honing in on opportunities in semiconductors, biotech, quantum information, and beyond. The US National Science Foundation invested USD 162 million in 2023 to drive the development of advanced materials capable of handling new challenges, including processing information at the quantum level.  
This Insight will focus on materials science as it relates to advanced sensing technology specifically. It will cover the broad types of sensors and their applications, the role and type of materials used in sensing, current trends and developments, prominent sensing applications, key materials science startups and incumbents, growth drivers, and market risks. 

Advanced sensing: A brief overview

Advanced sensing technologies allow us to pick up on diverse phenomena, from electrochemical signals and magnetic fields to physical quantities like temperature, without placing significant demands on processing power. Modern-day sensor development is a multidisciplinary science, pulling insights from several areas, including computational simulations, protein interactions, nanomaterial signal amplification, and molecular imprinting. This diverse toolkit fuels various real-world uses, such as clinical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, food and drug production, and manufacturing. 
Modern sensors owe their prowess in sensitivity and specificity to achievements in a variety of fields, including ion detection (critical for in-vitro medical diagnostics), field-effect transistors (used to amplify weak signals), sandwich assays (detection of compounds/analytes in biomedical settings), mediated amperometric biosensors (important for environmental monitoring and biosensing), and surface plasmon resonance (useful to study molecular interactions).
Quantum sensing is the latest addition to the advanced sensing toolkit, with researchers in Austria having reportedly developed the first programmable quantum sensor for precision sensing. This breakthrough, unveiled in March 2022, holds promise for applications in medicine, telecommunications, nanotechnology, and satellite navigation.
types of sensors

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