Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Clean water and sanitation Oceans Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student knows: - the theoretical principles and applications in the biotechnological-pharmaceutical field of (nano) biosensors; - the composition and functioning of the various types of optical biosensors, based on the type of components, the signal recognition and detection mechanisms; - the principles and techniques for the creation of integrated analytical systems, cellular biosensors, nanobiosensors, and for in vitro and in vivo imaging; - the principles of physical chemistry and electrochemistry for the construction and use of electrochemical biosensors; - the composition and functioning of the different types of electrochemical biosensors, based on the type of transducer and the molecular recognition process.

Course contents

Module 1

Introduction to biosensors: history, specifications of biosensors and analytical performance, classification of biosensors by molecular recognition element and by transduction system, catalytic and affinity-based biosensors.

Molecular recognition elements: enzymes, antibodies, chimeric antibodies, nanobodies, non-antibody binding proteins, molecular imprinted polymers, aptamers, DNA, RNA, PNA.

Overview on main trasduction systems with a focus on optical transduction systems (absorbance, luminescent, label-free…)

Components of optical biosensors: light sources, detectors, analytical formats, waveguides and optical fibres, implementation of optical fibres in biosensors, miniaturization.

Fluorescence-based biosensors: quenching and energy transfer processes, biosensors for metals and organic species, biosensors based on enzymatic, immunological and nucleic acid hybridization reactions, biosensors employing quantum dots, applications of fluorescence-based biosensors.

Chemiluminescence- and bioluminescence-based biosensors: chemiluminescent and bioluminescent systems, biosensors based on enzymatic, immunological and nucleic acid hybridization reactions, applications of chemiluminescence-based biosensors.

Label-free optical sensors: Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR)-based and Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW)-based biosensors, principles of SPR and SAW biosensors, instrumentation, recognition processes, applications of SPR and SAW biosensors.

Whole-cell luminescent biosensors: principles of whole-cell luminescent biosensors, reporter genes and proteins, molecular recognition elements, whole-cell biosensors based on FRET and BRET processes. Applications of whole-cell bioluminescent biosensors: detections of specific analytes, toxicity assays, high-throughput and high-content screening.

Marketed biosensors, state of the art of biosensors for point-of care and point of need applications with critical assessment of main advantages and limitations of different biosensing strategies.

Module 2

Characteristics and classification of electrochemical biosensors. Commercial biosensors for clinical and pharmaceutical applications.

Commercial biosensors for clinical and pharmaceutical applications - Basics of electrochemistry - Electrodes - Eq. of
Nernst - Principles of operation of potentiometric sensors

Types of membranes in ISE - Examples of realization of potentiometric membrane biosensors and using
the glass electrode. Examples of membrane potentiometric biosensors by using the glass electrode.

Architecture of electrochemical biosensors: materials and immobilization methods. Conductive polymers.

Examples of enzymatic biosensors

Examples of affinity biosensors

Operating principles of amperometric sensors - Chronoamperometry - Examples of amperometric biosensors

Voltammetric techniques. Examples of amperometric biosensors.

Operating principles of impedenzimetric biosensors

Example of impedenzimetric biosensors

Operating principles of bio-FET - Example of bio-FET

Bioreactors. Microbial fuel cells


Module 1

Biosensors and Nanotechnology: Applications in Health Care Diagnostics. Zeynep Altintas (Editor) ISBN: 978-1-119-06501-2 December 2017

Bioanalytical Chemistry (English Edition) 2nd Edition, Wiley di Susan R. Mikkelsen, Eduardo Cortón, ISBN: 1118302540, 2016

Scientific publications will be provided during the course.

Module 2

The reference text is Chemical Sensors and Biosensors - Fundamentals and Applications by Florinel-Gabriel Banica's.

All the bibliographic references indicated in the presentations used in class will be provided as supporting material.

Many of these articles are periodically replaced with more recent ones.

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons

It is advisable to attend classes for a better understanding of the topics.

Assessment methods

Module 1

The learning assessment takes place through final oral examination, which ensures the achievement of the following learning objectives:

- basic notions about theoretical principles of biosensors and their applications in biotechnological and pharmaceutical fields

- main components of biosensors; main optical transduction mechanisms employed in biosensors and their analytical performance

- immobilization and bioconjugation methods employed for the development of biosensors

- the basic principles of microfluidics and design of lab-on-chip integrated analytical devices;

- principles of whole-cell-biosensors

- selection of the most suitable biosensing approach for applications such as drug screening, biomarker discovery, chemical-clinical monitoring with Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) devices.

Module 2

The final exam is oral and based on a program topic chosen by the student and two or more questions on the main program topics.The exam aims to determine both the acquisition of expected knowledge by the course program and the student's ability to find links among the covered topics, also using the reference material provided by the teacher. Each student receives a mark based on the ability to present in concise and complete manner the specific issues. Organic vision and criticism of the topics and mastery of specific language will be evaluated very positively; mnemonic knowledge of the subject, lack of synthesis and inappropriate specific language will be evaluated not so positively. The final mark, expressed in thirtieths,will be an average of the two modules of the course.

Note: assessment methods could vary in case of extension of the anti-COVID measures. Students will be promptly informed by the the teacher in case of variation.


Teaching tools

Video and overhead projector. Slides of all the lectures are available as PowerPoint files.

Power point presentations used during the lessons and any research material will be provided to the students in electronic format via Internet. The power point presentations used during the course will be uploaded on the site Insegnamenti on line [https://iol.unibo.it/] before the corresponding lesson. It is advisable to consult the ppt presentations before the lesson in order to be able to follow the lesson in a proactive way. It is suggested to download (or print) presentations and bring them to class in order to integrate them with notes.

Possible distance teaching will be given through Microsoft Teams with the support of Microsoft 365 software suite.

Office hours

See the website of Elisa Michelini

See the website of Catia Arbizzani