COLLEGE PARK, Md.--A small, unmanned vehicle makes its way down the road ahead of a military convoy. Suddenly it stops and relays a warning to the convoy commander. The presence of a deadly improvised explosive device, or IED, has been detected by sophisticated new sensor technology incorporating living olfactory cells on microchips mounted on the unmanned vehicle. The IED is safely dismantled and lives are saved.
This scenario may become a reality, thanks to the work of three faculty researchers in the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering who are collaborating across engineering disciplines to make advanced "cell-based sensors-on-a-chip" technology possible. Pamela Abshire, electrical and computer engineering (ECE) and Institute for Systems Research (ISR); Benjamin Shapiro, aerospace engineering and ISR; and Elisabeth Smela, mechanical engineering and ECE; are working on new sensors that take advantage of the sensory capabilities of biological cells.
These tiny sensors, only a few millimeters in size, could speed up and improve the detection of everything from explosive materials to biological pathogens to spoiled food or impure water.
Today's biochemical detectors are slow and produce an unacceptable number of false readings.
They are easily fooled because they often cannot distinguish subtle differences between deadly pathogens and harmless substances, and cannot fully monitor or interpret the different ways these substances interact with biological systems. To solve this problem, the Clark School researchers are learning how to incorporate real cells into tiny micro-systems to detect chemical and biological pathogens.
Different cells can be grown on these microchips, depending on the task at hand. Like a bloodhound hot on the trail of a scent, a chip containing a collection of olfactory cells plus sensing circuits that can interpret their behavior could detect the presence of explo
|Contact: Rebecca Copeland|
University of Maryland