New sensing technology could improve our ability to detect diseases, fraudulent art, chemical weapons and more
From airport security detecting explosives to art historians authenticating paintings, society’s thirst for powerful sensors is growing.
Given that, few sensing techniques can match the buzz created by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS).
Discovered in the 1970s, SERS is a sensing technique prized for its ability to identify chemical and biological molecules in a wide range of fields. It has been commercialized, but not widely, because the materials required to perform the sensing are consumed upon use, relatively expensive and complicated to fabricate.
That may soon change.
An international research team led by University at Buffalo engineers has developed nanotechnology that promises to make SERS simpler and more affordable.
Described in a research paper published today in the journal Advanced Materials Interfaces, the photonics advancement aims to improve our ability to detect trace amounts of molecules in diseases, chemical warfare agents, fraudulent paintings, environmental contaminants and more.
“The technology we’re developing – a universal substrate for SERS – is a unique and, potentially, revolutionary feature. It allows us to rapidly identify and measure chemical and biological molecules using a broadband nanostructure that traps wide range of light,” said Qiaoqiang Gan, UB assistant professor of electrical engineering and the study’s
The technology consists of a thin film of silver or aluminum that acts as a mirror, and a dielectric layer of silica or alumina. The dielectric separates the mirror with tiny metal nanoparticles
randomly spaced at the top of the substrate.
“It acts similar to a skeleton key. Instead of needing all these different substrates to measure Raman signals excited by different wavelengths, you’ll eventually need just one. Just like a skeleton key that opens many doors,” Zhang said.
“The applications of such a device are far-reaching,” said Kai Liu. “The ability to detect even smaller amounts of chemical and biological molecules could be helpful with biosensors that are used to detect cancer, Malaria, HIV and other illnesses.”
It could be useful identifying chemicals used in certain types of paint. This could be helpful detecting forged pieces of art as well as restoring aging pieces of art. Also, the technology could improve scientists’ ability to detect trace amounts of toxins in the air, water or other spaces that are causes for health concerns. And it could aid in the detection of chemical weapons.
The Latest on: Sensing technology
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The Latest on: Sensing technology
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