Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Purdue chemists give an old laboratory ‘bloodhound’ a sharper nose

18.10.2004


Purdue University chemists have developed a fast, efficient means of analyzing chemical samples found on surfaces, resulting in a device that could impact everything from airport security to astrobiology to forensic science.



A team, including R. Graham Cooks, has improved the mass spectrometer, a device well known to chemists for its ability to provide information on the composition of unknown substances. Mass spectrometers, essential tools in any modern chemistry lab, are often used by law enforcement to test suspicious-looking residues that could indicate the presence of explosives or drugs inside packages. But while most mass spectrometers are unwieldy, cabinet-sized machines that require samples to undergo hours of intensive preparation before testing, Cooks’ team has found a way to test untreated samples right where they are found with a mass spectrometer that can fit in a backpack – all by creating a wand that can gather the samples from the environment quickly.

"We’ve essentially given an old bloodhound a new nose," said Cooks, who is the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry in Purdue’s School of Science. "While mass spectrometry is one of our best ways to determine the makeup of a substance, the time and effort needed to prepare samples for analysis have made it difficult to use them in the field. With luck, this research will change all that."


The research, which appears in today’s (Friday, Oct. 15) issue of the journal Science, was conducted by first author Zoltán Takáts with Justin M. Wiseman, Bogdan Gologan and Cooks, all of Purdue.

Gologan said that the team’s innovation was inspired in part by the desire to use one of chemistry’s most powerful tools in less limiting environments than the laboratory. "Testing an unknown sample using standard mass spec can take up to half a day," said Gologan, a graduate student in Cooks’ laboratory. "You have to dissolve the sample, then dilute the solution, then add additional compounds before you can stick it in the spectrometer. It’s a generally effective process, but it’s not so attractive in situations where time is of the essence."

To simplify these preliminary steps in the process, the team developed a technique known as desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) – a mouthful of a name for a method that is relatively simple to conceive. "Our device sprays a sample with a stream of high-velocity gas that contains some reactive chemicals," Gologan said. "Just like a strong wind kicks up dust, the gas breaks off a few small particles of the unknown substance, and these combine with the reactive chemicals to form an ionized compound that a mass spectrometer can analyze right then and there. It can be done anywhere, and because there are fewer intervening steps before the substance is analyzed, there’s less likelihood that the sample will be accidentally contaminated in the interim."

Sampling is done with a long, tubelike wand that both delivers the gas and sucks up the resulting ionized compound. It is this wand that the team likens to their bloodhound’s new nose. The wand’s tip must come within 5 millimeters of the sample to be effective, but the group has also found a way to build a mass spectrometer that weighs about 18 kilograms (40 pounds), which means it can be carried to the sample, rather than forcing investigators to bring the sample to it. "This backpack-size device will be useful for field analysis of chemicals, filling a need in airport baggage security and drug detection," said Wiseman, a graduate student working on the project. "While the technique obviously cannot look inside packages to see what is inside, residue from explosives and drugs often remains on the hands of whoever packed it, and some is transferred during handling to the package’s surface. That remaining residue is what this device will be good for detecting."

While the team is optimistic about the device’s potential for application in the lab and on the street, Gologan cautioned that a better understanding of its functioning was still needed. "One potential criticism of the device is that we haven’t yet done an in-depth analysis of the mechanism," he said. "We think we know how it works, but haven’t yet proven it. That’s one of our next research steps."

Still, Wiseman is optimistic that the team’s advancements could have applications far beyond the nation’s security needs. "The Mars rovers have concentrated on examining the surfaces of rocks," he said. "Future rovers could use a tool like this to examine other worlds’ surfaces for the presence of chiral acids, such as the amino acids that form our bodies’ proteins. It could assist with the search for life elsewhere in the cosmos."

John B. Fenn, who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for chemistry, said that the DESI technique could also be used for biomedical testing. "The truly exciting aspect of this work is that substances can be detected on the outer surface of a living species," said Fenn, who is a research professor of chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University. "Using this technique, the Purdue researchers were able to detect the presence of antihistamine on the skin of a person who had ingested an antihistamine tablet only a short time earlier. The implications of this finding are truly tremendous."

Cooks is associated with several research centers at or affiliated with Purdue, including the Bindley Biosciences Center, the Indiana Instrumentation Institute, Inproteo (formerly the Indiana Proteomics Consortium) and the Center for Sensing Science and Technology. Funding was provided by InProteo. Prosolia Inc., a spin-out subsidiary of InProteo, has rights to commercialize the work.

Chad Boutin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View
22.06.2018 | University of Sussex

nachricht New cellular pathway helps explain how inflammation leads to artery disease
22.06.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Temperature-controlled fiber-optic light source with liquid core

In a recent publication in the renowned journal Optica, scientists of Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology (Leibniz IPHT) in Jena showed that they can accurately control the optical properties of liquid-core fiber lasers and therefore their spectral band width by temperature and pressure tuning.

Already last year, the researchers provided experimental proof of a new dynamic of hybrid solitons– temporally and spectrally stationary light waves resulting...

Im Focus: Overdosing on Calcium

Nano crystals impact stem cell fate during bone formation

Scientists from the University of Freiburg and the University of Basel identified a master regulator for bone regeneration. Prasad Shastri, Professor of...

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Graphene assembled film shows higher thermal conductivity than graphite film

22.06.2018 | Materials Sciences

Fast rising bedrock below West Antarctica reveals an extremely fluid Earth mantle

22.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Zebrafish's near 360 degree UV-vision knocks stripes off Google Street View

22.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>