Field-operable nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)-based biosensor with embedded temperature control


Innovators at Michigan State University developed a portable Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)-based biosensor that utilizes magnetic nanoparticles as a biomarker for label-free isolation and detection of target bio-materials from complex sample matrices. The NMR-based biosensor operates at 0.47 Tesla, utilizing an embedded magnet and electrically-active nanoparticles for extracting and labeling the target. A robust temperature control system controls power and frequency to compensate for temperature fluctuation. The small size enables in-field testing and detection of biohazards, bacteria, viruses, DNA/RNA, proteins, toxins, chemicals, and disease causing agents. In contrast, most NMR-based devices cannot be used in-field because of their large size, weight, and sensitivity to temperature fluctuations.

This field-operable NMR will enable rapid detection of biohazards, such as anthrax or ricin, or other dangerous substances, potentially saving both lives and property. For the oil and gas industry, MSU’s NMR can provide rapid test results in the field, enhancing oil exploration investments. This novel NMR biosensor is sensitive, accurate, and field-operable for rapid detection and diagnosis of infectious agents, biohazards, and other contaminants contained in a small package.


  • Portable: The small size enables the device to be handheld and field-operable
  • Accurate: Reproducible results
  • Rapid detection: Biological tests can be conducted with on-location results in less than  an hour from sample receipt to final readout of results
  • Temperature compensation control: NMR frequency control compensates for ambient temperature fluctuations
  • Reliable: Limited responsiveness to environmental magnetic interference
  • Flexible: Enables direct detection of biomarkers in a wide range of samples
  • High signal-to-noise ratio
  • Low-cost tests: Inexpensive tests range from ~$0.30–$0.50 per test


This technology may have potential for use within a variety of application areas:

  • Defense and Homeland Security
    • Detect biological hazards and explosives (e.g., TNT)
    • Field test analytes 
  • Petrochemical industry: Enables rapid data acquisition for petroleum and natural gas detection
  • Food science: Enables rapid analysis of food safety or composition (e.g., detection of E. coli)
  • Non-destructive testing: Analyzing samples non-destructively as compared to destructive biochemical experiments
  • Medical 
    • Clinical/Diagnostics: Diagnose disease outbreaks and epidemics, enabling rapid treatment, particularly in resource-limited settings with minimal  access to standard medical care and lab testing
    • Pharmaceutical industry: Product validation and counterfeit drug identification
    • Biotechnology research: May enable improved kinetic study of disease development
    • Medical offices: May enable private practice doctors to perform common point-of-care tests with rapid results

IP Protection Status

Patent is pending.

Commercial Opportunity

MSU Technologies (MSUT) facilitates the commercial development and public use of innovations developed by MSU faculty and staff. MSUT invites companies to consider opportunities to license this technology or engage in joint development activities.

About Us

The MSU Innovation Center seamlessly integrates three critical activities necessary to drive cutting edge innovations to market. The unit includes:

  • MSU Technologies, reinvented with dynamic new leadership to make MSU's process for licensing and commercializing MSU intellectual property more productive and efficient;
  • Business-CONNECT facilitates MSU's research relationships with the business community, including negotiating sponsored research agreements "at the speed of business"; and
  • Spartan Innovations provides faculty and students with access to business talent, operational and financial support to turn MSU innovations into successful businesses -- and spur entrepreneurship in Michigan's economy.

Co-located with East Lansing's Technology Innovation Center (TIC), and the Hatch, MSU's student company incubator, the MSU Innovation Center is the "center of gravity" for MSU's interactions with the private sector and entrepreneurism.

Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University - Test