Scientists Develop Nanotech Sensor that Turns Molecular Fingerprints into Bar Codes

Scientists have developed a nanotech sensor that can turns molecular fingerprints into bar codes, according to a study published on June 7, 2018.

This study was conducted by the scientists at the EPFL’s School of Engineering and at Australian National University (ANU). Until now, infrared spectroscopy was the commonly used method to detect and analyze organic compounds. However, it required complicated procedures and large, expensive instruments, which made device miniaturization challenging. This led to the discovery of a compact and sensitive nanophotonic system that can identify a molecule’s absorption characteristics without using conventional spectrometry.

Initially, the molecules were translated into bar codes. Each chemical bond present in organic molecules have a specific orientation and vibrational mode. Therefore, every molecule has a set of characteristic energy levels and absorption of light by each molecule will be at different frequencies. However, such analyses require lab instruments with a hefty size and price tag.

The newly developed system is both highly sensitive and capable of being miniaturized. Nanostructures of the system are grouped into metapixels. Therefore, when a molecule comes in contact with the surface, the behavior of the metapixels change.

Aleksandrs Leitis, a coauthor of the study said, “Thanks to our sensors’ unique optical properties, we can generate bar codes even with broadband light sources and detectors.” Researchers say that this new system provides large number of applications. Dragomir Neshev, another coauthor of the study said, “For instance, it could be used to make portable medical testing devices that generate bar codes for each of the biomarkers found in a blood sample.”

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