Chemical detection system a 'glowing' idea

Dec. 14, 2011 at 6:54 PM
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 14 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've developed a new way of visually detecting the presence of specific chemicals like toxins, disease markers, pathogens or explosives.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say their system signals the presence of a target chemical by emitting a fluorescent glow. The technology combines fluorescent molecules with an open scaffolding called a metal-organic framework that provides a lot of open space for target molecules to occupy and cause a reaction with fluorescent molecules in close proximity, an MIT release said Wednesday.

Sensors attuned to specific compounds or chemicals could be read at a glance simply by watching for the material to glow, researchers said.

"A lot of known sensors work in reverse," MIT chemistry Professor Mircea Dinca said, meaning they "turn off" in the presence of the target compound.

"Turn-on sensors are better," he said, because "they're easier to detect, the contrast is better."

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