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Safety reflector technology from footwear getting new life in detecting bioterror threats
Date:4/11/2013

shnan Raja, the member of Willson's team at the University of Houston (UH) who presented the report, pointed out that retroreflectors may be the most visually detectable devices ever made by humanity. They work on the project with colleagues at UH, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and the Sandia National Laboratories branch in Livermore, Calif. The devices reflect light directly back to its source in a way that produces extreme brightness. One version of retroreflection effect occurs when someone shines a flashlight in a mirror. The reflection is so bright that looking at it hurts.

Although most people have never heard the term "retroreflector," these devices are not new, Raja pointed out. The Apollo 11 astronauts, for instance, left a laser-ranging retroreflector on the moon during the first lunar landing mission in 1969. Scientists still use the device to study the moon's orbit. And they are ubiquitous fixtures in road signs, traffic lane markers and elsewhere in everyday life.

Willson's collaborator Paul Ruchhoeft of UH has developed a way of making retroreflectors so small that more than 200 would fit inside the period at the end of this sentence. The retroreflectors then become part of a lab-on-a-chip, or a microfluidic device, with minute channels for processing "microliter"-scale amounts of blood or other fluids. A microliter is one-millionth of a liter (a liter is about one quart). A drop of water contains about 50 microliters.

When a sample of fluid that doesn't contain disease-causing viruses or bacteria flows through those channels to the retroreflectors, they shine brightly. A sample containing bacteria, however, makes portions of the reflectors go dark, signaling a positive test result. Raja explained that the change from bright to dark is one of several advantages of the retroreflector technology, compared to existing ways of detecting disease-causing microbes. It can be detected with simple optical devic
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Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
504-670-4707 (New Orleans Press Center, April 5-10)
202-872-6042

Michael Woods
m_woods@acs.org
504-670-4707 (New Orleans Press Center, April 5-10)
202-872-6293

American Chemical Society


Source:Eurekalert

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