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Nanotech device mimics dog's nose to detect explosives
Date:11/20/2012

tudent in Meinhart's laboratory and Chief Scientist at Santa Barbara-based SpectraFluidics, Inc. The technology has been patented and exclusively licensed to SpectraFluidics, a company that Piorek co-founded in 2008 with private investors.

"Our research project not only brings different disciplines together to develop something new, but it also creates jobs for the local community and hopefully benefits society in general," commented Meinhart.

Packaged on a fingerprint-sized silicon microchip and fabricated at UCSB's state-of-the-art cleanroom facility, the underlying technology combines free-surface microfluidics and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to capture and identify molecules. A microscale channel of liquid absorbs and concentrates the molecules by up to six orders of magnitude. Once the vapor molecules are absorbed into the microchannel, they interact with nanoparticles that amplify their spectral signature when excited by laser light. A computer database of spectral signatures identifies what kind of molecule has been captured.

"The device consists of two parts," explained Moskovits. "There's a microchannel, which is like a tiny river that we use to trap the molecules and present them to the other part, a mini spectrometer powered by a laser that detects them. These microchannels are twenty times smaller than the thickness of a human hair."

"The technology could be used to detect a very wide variety of molecules," said Meinhart. "The applications could extend to certain disease diagnosis or narcotics detection, to name a few."

Moskovits added, "The paper we published focused on explosives, but it doesn't have to be explosives. It could detect molecules from someone's breath that may indicate disease, for example, or food that has spoiled."

The fundamental research was developed through an interdisciplinary collaboration between Professors Meinhart and Moskovits, and carried out by former doct
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Contact: Melissa Van De Werfhorst
melissa@engineering.ucsb.edu
805-893-4301
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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