As reported in the Sept. 13 issue of the journal Nature Chemistry, Kenneth Suslick and his team at the University of Illinois have developed an artificial nose for the general detection of toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) that is simple, fast and inexpensive - and works by visualizing odors.
This sensor array could be useful in detecting high exposures to chemicals that pose serious health risks in the workplace or through accidental exposure.
"Our device is simply a digital multidimensional extension of litmus paper. We have a six by six array of different nanoporous pigments whose colors change depending on their chemical environment," said Suslick, the Schmidt Professor of Chemistry at the U. of I. "The pattern of the color change is a unique molecular fingerprint for any toxic gas and also tells us its concentration. By comparing that pattern to a library of color fingerprints, we can identify and quantify the TICs in a matter of seconds."
To create the sensor array, the researchers print a series of tiny colored dots - each a different pigment - on an inert backing such as paper, plastic or glass. The array is then digitally imaged with an ordinary flatbed scanner or an inexpensive electronic camera before and after exposure to an odor-producing substance. And, unlike other electronic-nose technologies that have been tried in the past, these colorimetric sensors are not affected by changes in relative humidity.
While physicists have radiation badges to protect them in the workplace, chemists and workers who handle chemicals have no good equivalent to monitor their exposure to potentially toxic chemicals.
This project, which was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, exemplifies the types of sensors that are being developed as part of the NIH Genes, Environment and Health Initiative.
"This research is an essential component of the GEI Exposure Biology Program that NIEHS has the lead on, which is to develop technologies to monitor and better understand how environmental exposures affect disease risk," said NIEHS director Linda Birnbaum. "This paper brings us one step closer to having a small wearable sensor that can detect multiple airborne toxins."
To test the application of their color sensor array, the researchers chose 19 representative examples of toxic industrial chemicals. Chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine, nitric acid and sulfur dioxide at concentrations known to be immediately dangerous to life or health were included.
The laboratory studies used inexpensive flatbed scanners for imaging. The researchers have developed a fully functional prototype handheld device that uses inexpensive white LED illumination and an ordinary camera, which will make the whole process of scanning more sensitive, smaller, faster, and even less expensive. It will be similar to a card-scanning device. The device is now being commercialized by iSense, located in Palo Alto, Calif., and Champaign.
The researchers say older methods relied on sensors whose response originates from weak and highly non-specific chemical interactions, whereas this new technology is based on stronger dye-analyte interactions that are responsive to a diverse set of chemicals. The power of this sensor to identify so many volatile toxins stems from the increased range of interactions that are used to discriminate the response of the array.
"One of the nice things about this technology is that it uses components that are readily available and relatively inexpensive," said David Balshaw, Ph.D. program administrator at NIEHS. "Given the broad range of chemicals that can be detected and the high sensitivity of the array to those compounds, it appears that this device will be particularly useful in occupational settings."
Ken Suslick | University of Illinois
Further reports about: > Bionic Nose > CHEMISTRY > Environmental Health > Opto-Electronic > Sniffs > Tics > color sensor array > colorimetric sensors > deadly toxins > health services > industrial chemicals > litmus paper > multiple airborne toxins > poisonous gases > polka-dotted postage stamp > radiation badges > toxic gases > toxic industrial chemicals > toxic metals
Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy