In the not-too-distant future, each of us may have a simple device - small enough for our nightstand or our pocket - that keeps us apprised of our level of health, identifies even trace amounts of undesirable biomarkers in our blood or saliva and serves as an early-warning system for diseases.
This technological revolution may be one step closer thanks to a powerful tool developed by researchers at EPFL's BioNanoPhotonic Systems (BIOS) Laboratory.
It consists of an ultra-thin and miniaturized optical chip that, when coupled with a standard CMOS camera and powered by image analysis, is able to count biomolecules one by one in a sample and determine their location.
This pioneering technology is based on metasurfaces - rising stars in the field of photonics.
Metasurfaces are sheets of artificial materials covered in millions of nano-sized elements arranged in a special way.
When light shines on the metasurface and hits a molecule at one of these hotspots, the molecule is detected immediately.