Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > New sensor developed by MIT chemical engineers can detect tiny traces of explosives

Abstract:
MIT researchers have created a new detector so sensitive it can pick up a single molecule of an explosive such as TNT.

New sensor developed by MIT chemical engineers can detect tiny traces of explosives

Cambridge, MA | Posted on May 9th, 2011

To create the sensors, chemical engineers led by Michael Strano coated carbon nanotubes hollow, one-atom-thick cylinders made of pure carbon with protein fragments normally found in bee venom. This is the first time those proteins have been shown to react to explosives, specifically a class known as nitro-aromatic compounds that includes TNT.

If developed into commercial devices, such sensors would be far more sensitive than existing explosives detectors commonly used at airports, for example which use spectrometry to analyze charged particles as they move through the air.

"Ion mobility spectrometers are widely deployed because they are inexpensive and very reliable. However, this next generation of nanosensors can improve upon this by having the ultimate detection limit, [detecting] single molecules of explosives at room temperature and atmospheric pressure," says Strano, the Charles (1951) and Hilda Roddey Career Development Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering.

A former graduate student in Strano's lab, Daniel Heller (now a Damon Runyon Fellow at MIT's David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research), is lead author of a paper describing the technology in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper appears online this week.

Strano has filed for a patent on the technology, which makes use of protein fragments called bombolitins. "Scientists have studied these peptides, but as far as we know, they've never been shown to have an affinity for and recognize explosive molecules in any way," he says.

In recent years, Strano's lab has developed carbon-nanotube sensors for a variety of molecules, including nitric oxide, hydrogen peroxide and toxic agents such as the nerve gas sarin. Such sensors take advantage of carbon nanotubes' natural fluorescence, by coupling them to a molecule that binds to a specific target. When the target is bound, the tubes' fluorescence brightens or dims.

The new explosives sensor works in a slightly different way. When the target binds to the bee-venom proteins coating the nanotubes, it shifts the fluorescent light's wavelength, instead of changing its intensity. The researchers built a new type of microscope to read the signal, which can't be seen with the naked eye. This type of sensor, the first of its kind, is easier to work with because it is not influenced by ambient light.

"For a fluorescent sensor, using the intensity of the fluorescent light to read the signal is more error-prone and noisier than measuring a wavelength," Strano says.

Each nanotube-peptide combination reacts differently to different nitro-aromatic compounds. By using several different nanotubes coated in different bombolitins, the researchers can identify a unique "fingerprint" for each explosive they might want to detect. The nanotubes can also sense the breakdown products of such explosives.

"Compounds such as TNT decompose in the environment, creating other molecule types, and those derivatives could also be identified with this type of sensor," Strano says. "Because molecules in the environment are constantly changing into other chemicals, we need sensor platforms that can detect the entire network and classes of chemicals, instead of just one type."

The researchers also showed that the nanotubes can detect two pesticides that are nitro-aromatic compounds as well, making them potentially useful as environmental sensors. The research was funded by the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT.

Philip Collins, a professor of physics at the University of California at Irvine, says the new approach is a novel extension of Strano's previous work on carbon-nanotube sensors. "It's nice what they've done combined a couple of different things that are not sensitive to explosives, and shown that the combination is sensitive," says Collins, who was not involved in this research.

The technology has already drawn commercial and military interest, Strano says. For the sensor to become practical for widespread use, it would have to be coupled with a commercially available concentrator that would bring any molecules floating in the air in contact with the carbon nanotubes.

"It doesn't mean that we are ready to put these onto a subway and detect explosives immediately. But it does mean that now the sensor itself is no longer the bottleneck," Strano says. "If there's one molecule in a sample, and if you can get it to the sensor, you can now detect and quantify it."

Other researchers from MIT involved in the work include former postdocs Nitish Nair and Paul Barone; graduate students Jingqing Zhang, Ardemis Boghossian and Nigel Reuel; and undergraduates George Pratt '10 and current junior Adam Hansborough.

Written by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Caroline McCall
MIT News Office
E:
T: 617-253-1682

Copyright © MIT

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Personal cooling units on the horizon April 29th, 2016

Exploring phosphorene, a promising new material April 29th, 2016

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Files for Regulatory Clearance to Begin Phase 1/2 Study of ARC-521 April 28th, 2016

The Translational Research Center at the University Hospital of Erlangen in Germany uses the ZetaView from Particle Metrix to quantify extracellular vesicles such as exosomes April 28th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Personal cooling units on the horizon April 29th, 2016

Exploring phosphorene, a promising new material April 29th, 2016

Nanoparticles hold promise as double-edged sword against genital herpes April 28th, 2016

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Files for Regulatory Clearance to Begin Phase 1/2 Study of ARC-521 April 28th, 2016

Sensors

Electrically Conductive Graphene Ink Enables Printing of Biosensors April 23rd, 2016

Highlights from the Graphene Flagship April 22nd, 2016

Team builds first quantum cascade laser on silicon: Eliminates the need for an external light source for mid-infrared silicon photonic devices or photonic circuits April 21st, 2016

With simple process, UW-Madison engineers fabricate fastest flexible silicon transistor April 21st, 2016

Discoveries

Personal cooling units on the horizon April 29th, 2016

Exploring phosphorene, a promising new material April 29th, 2016

Nanoparticles hold promise as double-edged sword against genital herpes April 28th, 2016

Researchers create a first frequency comb of time-bin entangled qubits: Discovery is a significant step toward multi-channel quantum communication and higher capacity quantum computers April 28th, 2016

Announcements

Personal cooling units on the horizon April 29th, 2016

Exploring phosphorene, a promising new material April 29th, 2016

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Files for Regulatory Clearance to Begin Phase 1/2 Study of ARC-521 April 28th, 2016

The Translational Research Center at the University Hospital of Erlangen in Germany uses the ZetaView from Particle Metrix to quantify extracellular vesicles such as exosomes April 28th, 2016

Homeland Security

Team builds first quantum cascade laser on silicon: Eliminates the need for an external light source for mid-infrared silicon photonic devices or photonic circuits April 21st, 2016

Nanoporous material's strange "breathing" behavior April 7th, 2016

Sniffing out a dangerous vapor: University of Utah engineers develop material that can sense fuel leaks and fuel-based explosives March 28th, 2016

Detecting and identifying explosives with single test December 10th, 2015

Military

Nanograft seeded with 3 cell types promotes blood vessel formation to speed wound healing April 27th, 2016

The light stuff: A brand-new way to produce electron spin currents - Colorado State University physicists are the first to demonstrate using non-polarized light to produce a spin voltage in a metal April 26th, 2016

NRL reveals novel uniform coating process of p-ALD April 21st, 2016

Team builds first quantum cascade laser on silicon: Eliminates the need for an external light source for mid-infrared silicon photonic devices or photonic circuits April 21st, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic