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Electronic nose sniffs out toxins
Date:9/13/2009

Imagine a polka-dotted postage stamp-sized sensor that can sniff out some known poisonous gases and toxins and show the results simply by changing colors.

Support for the development and application of this electronic nose comes from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. The new technology is discussed in this month's issue of Nature Chemistry and exemplifies the types of sensors that are being developed as part of the NIH Genes, Environment and Health Initiative (GEI) (http://www.gei.nih.gov/index.asp).

Once fully developed, the sensor could be useful in detecting high exposures to toxic industrial chemicals that pose serious health risks in the workplace or through accidental exposure. While physicists have radiation badges to protect them in the workplace, chemists and workers who handle chemicals do not have equivalent devices to monitor their exposure to potentially toxic chemicals. The investigators hope to be able to market the wearable sensor within a few years.

"The project fits into the overall goal of a component of the GEI Exposure Biology Program that the 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, Ph.D. "This paper brings us one step closer to having a small wearable sensor that can detect multiple airborne toxins."

The paper's senior author is Kenneth S. Suslick, Ph.D., the M.T. Schmidt Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Suslick and his colleagues have created what they refer to as an optoelectronic nose, an artificial nose for the detection of toxic industrial chemicals (TICs) that is simple, fast, inexpensive, and works by visualizing colors.

"We have a disposable 36-dye sensor array that changes colors when exp
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Contact: Robin Mackar
rmackar@niehs.nih.gov
919-541-0073
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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