WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Nanotechnology is advancing tools likened to Star Trek's "tricorder" that perform on-the-spot chemical analysis for a range of applications including medical testing, explosives detection and food safety.
Researchers found that when paper used to collect a sample was coated with carbon nanotubes, the voltage required was 1,000 times reduced, the signal was sharpened and the equipment was able to capture far more delicate molecules.
A team of researchers from Purdue University and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras performed the study, which is detailed in a designated "very important paper" by the journal Angewandte Chemie.
"This is a big step in our efforts to create miniature, handheld mass spectrometers for the field," said R. Graham Cooks, Purdue's Henry B. Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. "The dramatic decrease in power required means a reduction in battery size and cost to perform the experiments. The entire system is becoming lighter and cheaper, which brings it that much closer to being viable for easy, widespread use."
Cooks and Thalappil Pradeep, a professor of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, led the research.
"Taking science to the people is what is most important," Pradeep said. "Mass spectrometry is a fantastic tool, but it is not yet on every physician's table or in the pocket of agricultural inspectors and security guards. Great techniques have been developed, but we need to hone them into tools that are affordable, can be efficiently manufactured and easily used."
The National Science Foundation-funded study used an analysis technique developed by Cooks and his colleagues called PaperSpray ionization. The technique relies on a sample obtained by wiping an object or placing a drop of liquid on paper wet with a solvent to capture residues from the object's surface. A small triangle is then cut from the paper and
|Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner|