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Connecting Materials Science With Biology, K-State Engineers Create DNA Sensors That Could Identify Cancer Using Material Only One Atom Thick
Date:4/13/2009

MANHATTAN, Kan., April 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Kansas State University engineers think the possibilities are deep for a very thin material.

Vikas Berry, assistant professor of chemical engineering, is leading research combining biological materials with graphene, a recently developed carbon material that is only a single atom thick.

"The biological interfacing of graphene is taking this material to the next level," Berry said. "Discovered only four years ago, this material has already shown a large number of capabilities. K-Staters are the first to do bio-integrated research with graphene."

To study graphene, researchers rely on an atomic force microscope to help them observe and manipulate these single atom thick carbon sheets.

"It's a fascinating material to work with," Berry said. "The most significant feature of graphene is that the electrons can travel without interruptions at speeds close to that of light at room temperature. Usually you have to go near zero Kelvin -- that's about 450 degrees below zero Fahrenheit -- to get electrons to move at ultra high speeds."

One of Berry's developments is a graphene-based DNA sensor. When electrons flow on the graphene, they change speed if they encounter DNA. The researchers notice this change by measuring the electrical conductivity. The work was published in Nano-Letters.

"Most DNA sensors are optical, but this one is electrical," Berry said. "We are currently collaborating with researchers from Harvard Medical School to sense cancer cells in blood."

Another area he is exploring is loading graphene with antibodies and flowing bacteria across the surface.

"Most researchers focus on pristine graphene, but we're making it dirty," he said.

Berry and Nihar Mohanty, a graduate student in chemical engineering, used a type of bacteria common
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