A chemist and his team working with the University of Houston have recently published reports on their development of sensors that will detect anything from explosives to contaminated milk.
According to Rigoberto Advincula, materials scientist, his team has endeavored to enable detection of explosives and other prohibited articles at sensitive locations such as airports and other public places. They also endeavor to detect presence of contaminants and other pollutants in food and other consumer products.
The team developed a polymer material into a sensor. They have applied for the provisional patent for the product. It is based on the ‘artificial receptor concept’ and resembles an enzyme that works as a biochemical catalyst in a cell almost like an antibody that binds with certain molecules in order to create a preplanned effect within the cell.
The elements called molecular imprinted polymers deal with metals and plastics. The method helps create plastic antibodies that reveal a chemical affinity for the earlier molecule, so that it can be used to create sensors.
The films were developed by the method of electrode-position based on electrochemistry. This is like electroplating metals in automotive and metal industries. The process is termed electro-polymerization. It is deployed on a gold surface and then linked to a digital transmitter which information will be to transfer this film on to portable devices to act as sensors.
The research findings have been simultaneously published in three journals. Macromolecules is a renowned journal focusing on polymer science, while Applied Materials & Interfaces is a new international forum focusing on applied materials science and engineering. Both are published by the American Chemical Society that gives complete details of developments in the field of chemical sciences. The third journal ‘Biosensors & Bioelectronics’ is an international publication from Elsevier focusing on research, design, development and application of sensors.
In 2011, the team will concentrate on various hazardous chemicals and proteins that are emitted by pathogens. It also plans to develop mobile hand-held sensors available off the shelf to general public and the military. The team will generate more funds and tie-ups to help them in their future endeavors. For the present, the National Science Foundation is funding the project.