To thwart possible terrorist attacks and to detect contamination on sites of former military installations, researchers have been concentrating their efforts in recent years on methods for the detection and analysis of explosives.
Fernando Patolsky and his team at the University of Tel Aviv have now developed a novel sensor chip that detects trinitrotoluene (TNT), as well as other explosive species, with high sensitivity and without a concentration step. As the Israeli researchers report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, their detector is superior to sniffer dogs and all other previous detection methods for this explosive.
The difficulty with the detection of explosives such as TNT is their extremely low volatility. Methods available for the analysis of air samples are expensive and time-consuming, and require large, bulky instruments, laborious sample preparation, and expert handling. “There is a need for an inexpensive, miniaturizable method that allows for quick, easy, and robust high-throughput analysis in the field,” says Patolsky.
The scientists built their sensor using the principle of a nanoscale field-effect transistor. In contrast to a current-controlled classical transistor, a field-effect transistor is switched by means of an electric field. At the core of the device are nanowires made of the semiconductor silicon. These were coated with a molecular layer made from special silicon compounds that contains amino groups (NH2). TNT molecules bind to these amino groups in the form of charge-transfer complexes. The binding process involves the transfer of electrons from the electron-rich amino groups to the electron-poor TNT. This change in the charge distribution on the surface of the nanowires modulates the electric field and leads to an abrupt change in the conductivity of the nanowires, which is easily measured.
To improve the signal-to-noise ratio and thus increase the sensitivity, the scientists equipped their chip with an array of about 200 individual sensors. “We are thus able to analyze liquid and gaseous samples without prior concentration or other sample preparation at previously unattainable sensitivities,” says Patolsky. “We were able to analyze concentrations down to 0.1 ppt (parts per trillion); that is, one molecule of TNT in 10 quadrillion other molecules.” The sensor can be quickly regenerated by washing and is selective for TNT; other related molecules do not react the same way.
“We are now creating a chip based on large arrays of nanosensors chemically modified with a large number of chemical receptors, with different binding capabilities, in order to detect a whole spectrum of explosive species in parallel,” says Patolsky.
Author: Fernando Patolsky, Tel Aviv University (Israel), http://www.tau.ac.il/chemistry/patolsky/
Title: Supersensitive Detection of Explosives by Silicon Nanowire Arrays
Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2010, 49, No. 38, 6830–6835, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201000847
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