Design of a DNA Biosensor based on HFF-QCM technology for adulterants detection in honey

One of the priority challenges of the European Union (EU) and of the spanish Scientific, Technical and Innovation Research Plan 2013-2016 is “Quality and Security in Food”. Food adulteration is a topic of interest in several fields: health care, legal (since it is a fraud) and economic (since it generates unfair competition). In this context, honey is one of the most commonly adulterated foods, which generates a great deal of economical problems in apiarian production and comercialization sector. This situation affects directly to our country, since Spain is the most important EU country in honey production and comercialization. Nowadays, honey adulteration is made, mainly, by using vegetal siropes, resulting in an adulterated product similar in taste to natural honey, but fraudulent, and including substances that consumer unknowingly ingests. With the aim to determine the authenticity of the consumed honey in Europe, the European Comission is promoting the development of new analytical methods which complement or replace the already existing ones.

The main drawbacks of the already existing techniques are: 1) There is no a unique technique which allows to identify, in a realiable way, an adulteration; therefore, in order to be conclusive, several analytical determinations are needed; 2) They are only available in centralized laboratories, which directly affects to the companies quality control process, slowing down it and rising its costs; 2) They requiere high qualified staff; 3) They requiere long time analysis periods (hours); and 4) sometimes, they have not enough resolution to detect the target substances. In this scenario, techniques based on DNA biosensors are becoming into very promising techniques in the field of security and quality food control, since they are easy handling, reliable, fast (analysis periods: minutes) and low cost. In this research project, the use of a novel technology in the field of food control adulteration is proposed. This technology is based on the use of acoustic sensors coated with functionalized nanostructures which allow to greatly increase the Limit of Detection (LOD) of the DNA of the plant substances used in honey adulteration. The use of those mentioned nanostructures generates a mechanic-acoustic amplification effect and, moreover, allow to separate the sensor transduction mechanism from the biochemical recognition process (DNA hibridation). The expected result is an increase of more than one order of magnitude in the sensor response when comparing it with the response of a sensor without the nanostructure coating.

The research work described in this report deal with new challenges: 1) the use of a new recognition method based on DNA detection; 2) the use of nanostructures which provide a mechanic-acoustic amplification and a separation of the transduction mechanism from the biochemical recognition process; and 3) the use of a new technique for sample dispensing based on an in-batch method. To deal with this four challenges, a multidiciplinary research team is requiered to guarantee the succes of the project. In this sense, the research proposal in this report uses three “enabling technologies” which will contribute to progress in the security and quality food control challenge: 1) Micro and nano electronics, 2) advanced materials and 3) biotechnology.

The project has just started up and it has not yet generated results.


  • Working Team: (IP) Yolanda Jiménez Jiménez (CI2B), Antonio Arnau Vives (CI2B), Isabel Escriche Roberto (IUIA)
  • Duration: 31/12/2016 – 31/12/2019
  • Financing entity: Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Retos de la sociedad)
  • Collaborations: AWSensors SL