Nanoparticles, engineered materials about a billionth of a meter in size, are around us every day. Although they are tiny, they can benefit human health, as in some innovative early cancer treatments, but they can also interfere with it through viruses, air pollution, traffic emissions, cosmetics, sunscreen and electronics.
A team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, led by Lan Yang, PhD, the Das Family Career Development Associate Professor in Electrical & Systems Engineering, and their collaborators at Tsinghua University in China have developed a new sensor that can detect and count nanoparticles, at sizes as small as 10 nanometers, one at a time. The researchers say the sensor could potentially detect much smaller particles, viruses and small molecules.
The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online Early Edition Sept. 1, 2014.
Yang and her colleagues have created the Raman microlaser sensor in a silicon dioxide chip to find individual nanoparticles without the need to "dope" the chip with chemicals called rare-earth ions to provide optical gain for the microlaser. Incorporating additions to the microresonator creates the need for more processing steps and increased costs and invites biocompatibility risks. In addition, the use of rare-earth ions requires specific "pump" lasers matching the energy transitions of the ions to generate optical gain, so for different rare-earth ions, different pump lasers must be used. Using the Raman process loosens the requirement of specific wavelength bands for pump lasers because Raman gain can be obtained using pump at any wavelength band, Yang says.
"This gives us the advantage of using the same dopant-free sensor at different sensing environments by tailoring the lasing frequency for the specific environment, for example, at the band where the environment has minimum absorption, and for the properties of the targeted n
|Contact: Julie Flory|
Washington University in St. Louis