Technique improves detection of bio-threats, explosives, drugs

Nov. 6, 2013 at 4:12 PM
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LIVERMORE, Calif., Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Using nanotubes to detect molecules at extremely low concentrations could improve detection of biological threats, explosives and drugs, U.S. scientists say.

Researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, working with Swiss colleagues, report a new technique of using spaghetti-like carbon nanotubes to amplify the detection capabilities of a technology known as surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy or SERS.

SERS is a surface-sensitive technique that enhances the detection of photons given off by molecules on rough metal surfaces when they are stuck by light.

Lawrence Livermore engineer Tiziana Bond and scientist Gyu Park of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology say using metal-coated nanotubes bunched together like a jungle canopy can amplify the signals detected by SERS by trapping and focusing the light.

"This is a very important discovery in our efforts to improve the use of SERS devices," Bond said, adding the engineered nano-material could lead to portable devices to conduct on-site detection of environmental pollutants, explosives, drugs or toxins.

Bond and Park have published a report of their research in the journal Advanced Materials.

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