Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Silkmoth inspires novel explosive detector

01.06.2012
Imitating the antennas of the silkmoth, Bombyx mori, to design a system for detecting explosives with unparalleled performance is the feat achieved by a team from the “Nanomatériaux pour Systèmes sous Sollicitations Extrêmes” unit (CNRS /French German Research Institute Saint-Louis), in collaboration with LMSP-Lab.for Materials, Surfaces and Catalyse proceedings (CNRS / Univ.Strasbourg).

Made up of a silicon microcantilever bearing nearly 500,000 aligned titanium dioxide nanotubes, this device can detect concentrations of trinitrotoluene (TNT) of around 800 ppq (i.e. 800 molecules of explosive per 1015 molecules of air), improving one thousand-fold the detection limit attainable until now.

This innovative concept could also be used to detect drugs, toxic agents and traces of organic pollutants. This work is published on 29 May 2012 in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The efficient detection of explosives such as trinitrotoluene (TNT) represents a difficult challenge in terms of security. Indeed, these compounds have very low volatility and it takes extremely sensitive sensors to detect them at a distance. Current systems detect concentrations of around 1 ppb (one molecule per 109 molecules of air), but this level of performance can be insufficient to ensure airport security for example. Yet, numerous animals have a sense of smell that can go well below this limit including, for example, the silkmoth (Bombyx mori), capable of reacting to the capture of just a few pheromone molecules. Its antennas are composed of strands of around one millimeter in length, bearing a large of number of sensilla, micrometric sized organs directly connected to the sensory neurons. It is this structure that the researchers sought to imitate.

The system that they have developed comprises a 200-micron long and 30-micron wide silicon microcantilever. This support has been nanostructured with around 500,000 vertically aligned titanium dioxide nanotubes. The role of these nanostructures is to multiply the surface area of the microcantilever by a factor of around one hundred and to proportionally increase the chances of capturing the molecules being searched for. By making the microcantilever vibrate, it is possible to determine whether the ambient air contains traces of TNT and if these molecules have been captured by the device. In fact, the microcantilever has a particular resonance frequency that is modified in a specific manner when it absorbs molecules of explosive.

To test the performance of this device, the researchers released very small quantities of TNT in a controlled manner. In this way, there were able to establish that the sensitivity of the device was 800 ppq (800 molecules per million billion molecules (1015)). No current device is able to detect such low concentrations of explosives. These performance levels are similar to those of trained sniffer dogs.

Research and development work is still necessary before an easy-to-use device based on these nanostructured levers can be obtained. One of the next steps is to design a device capable of specifically recognizing the type of explosive absorbed. The scientists already hope to adapt these microcantilevers to the detection of other explosives, such as pentrite, which could pose security problems in Europe. Furthermore, this method could also be used to detect various drugs which, like explosives, have very low volatility. In environmental terms, this bio-inspired device could make it possible to measure infinitesimal traces of pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, which have become a major health issue.

Bibliography

Bio-Inspired Nanostructured Sensor for the Detection of Ultralow Concentrations of Explosives. D. Spitzer, T. Cottineau, N. Piazzon, S. Josset, F. Schnell, S. N. Pronkin, E. R. Savinova, and V. Keller. Angewandte Chemie. 29 May 2012.

Contact information

Researchers l Denis Spitzer l T +33 (0)3 89 69 50 75 l denis.spitzer@isl.eu
Valérie Keller l T +33 (0)03 68 85 27 36 l vkeller@unistra.fr
Press officer / ISL / Magdalena Kaufmann +33 (0)3 89 69 53 18
CNRS l Priscilla Dacher l T 01 44 96 46 06 l priscilla.dacher@cnrs-dir.fr

Magdalena Kaufmann-Spachtholz | idw
Further information:
http://www.isl.eu/
http://www.cnrs.fr/

Further reports about: Angewandte Chemie CNRS TNT oxide nanotubes silkmoth titanium dioxide

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie

nachricht Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

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...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

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...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

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...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>