Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical Engineering

Major Professor

Paul B. Crilly

Committee Members

Thomas L. Ferrell, Michael J. Roberts, Marshall O. Pace


Cocaine is a well-known, illegal, recreational drug that is addictive due to its effects on the mesolimbic reward pathway in the human body. Accurate and real-time measurement of the concentration of cocaine in the body as a function of time and physiological factors is a key requirement for the understanding of the use of this drug. Current methods for such measurements involve taking samples from the human body (such as blood, urine, and hair) and performing analytical chemistry tests on these samples. This techniques are relatively expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive. To address this issue, a new implantable sensor for the automated detection and measurement of the relative cocaine concentration is presented here. The device is more economical and provides for higher sampling frequencies than the current methods. The active sensor elements consist of piezoresistive microcantilever arrays, which are coated with an oligonucleotide-based aptamer, i.e. a short sequence of RNA with high affinity for specific target molecules, as the cocaine receptor. A Wheatstone bridge is used to convert the biosensor signal into an electronic signal. This signal is transmitted wireless at an operating frequency of 403.55 MHz, which complies with the US Medical Implant Communication System (MICS) FCC 47CFR Part 95. The limit of detection for the in vitro experiment is found to be 1 ng/ml. The device has successfully measured the relative concentration of cocaine upon implantation in the subcutaneous interstitial fluid of male Wistar rats.

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