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Motorola researchers develop selective sensors based on carbon nanotubes

A team of researchers from Arizona State University and Motorola Labs, the applied research arm of Motorola Inc., has developed sensors based on carbon nanotubes, microscopically small structures that posses excellent electronic properties. In early tests, the new devices detected the presence of heavy metal ions in water down to parts per trillion levels.

Specifically, the researchers developed a method for applying peptides to single walled carbon nanotubes (SWNT) in field effect transistors.

"This is a fairly general sensor platform for all kinds of applications," said Nongjian Tao, an electrical engineering professor at Arizona State University and one of the researchers on the project. "We tested heavy metal ions in water, but the platform can be applied to many other areas to sense toxic chemicals in the air, or they can be used as biosensors when applied to medicine."

"Integration of nanosensors into devices and sensor networks will enable the detection of biological and chemical agents at very low concentrations, which could be vital in the areas of public safety and homeland security," added Vida Ilderem, vice president of the Embedded Systems Research Labs at Motorola, Tempe, Ariz.

The researchers report the advance in a paper, "Tuning the chemical selectivity of SWNT-FETs for detection of heavy metal ions," which will be published in the journal Small. An early view of the article is available at the journal's web site (www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jissue/109627347).

"Our sensor is based on the novel properties of peptides and carbon nanotubes," Tao explained. "Peptides can be used to recognize and detect various chemical species with high sensitivity and selectivity while carbon nanotubes are well known for their electronic properties."

The peptides are made of 20 or so amino acids, so changing the sequence of amino aci
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Source:Arizona State University


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