July 31 (UPI) -- A new sensor developed by scientists at the University of Buffalo promises to make it easier to catch athletes using performance enhancing drugs.
Researchers have made a breakthrough in infrared absorption spectroscopy technology that they believe will make drug-detecting sensors more sensitive and versatile, as well as less expensive to make.
The sensor features an extremely thin layer of insulation sandwiched in between two metal layers. The layered device -- created using a technique called atomic layer deposition -- features nanoscale gaps capable of absorbing 81 percent of infrared light. Similar sensors absorb just 3 percent of infrared light.
The sensor acts as a substrate for the sample being tested. By absorbing and measuring the changes in infrared wavelengths passing through the sample, the sensor can render different molecular signatures at high resolution.
In other words, tiny traces of target chemicals -- whether PEDs in a blood sample or bomb-making chemicals in a suitcase -- will be less likely to sneak by the ultra sensitive sensor.
Because the new sensor is sensitive to the mid-infrared bands of the electromagnetic spectrum, it's also capable of targeting a wide variety of molecules.
"This new optical device has the potential to improve our abilities to detect all sorts of biological and chemical samples," Qiaoqiang Gan, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo, said in a news release.
Scientists described their new sensor this week in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.