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Oregon State Team Uses Magnetic Nanobeads for Portable 'Instant' Sensors

by Editor1 last modified April 26, 2011 - 12:40

A team at Oregon State University is using magnetic nanobeads to assemble a microfluidic sensor to boost potency and speed of portable sensors for detecting chemical and biological agents.

Oregon State Team Uses Magnetic Nanobeads for Portable 'Instant' Sensors

OSU team uses magnetic nanoparticles for microfluidic sensors that could instantly detect and display findings.

The work uses ferromagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles to create a lab-on-a-chip architecture that can detect and display findings nearly instantly.

The multi-discipline project is led by Dr. Vincent Remcho, associate dean for research and graduate programs in OSU’s College of Science, and Prof. Pallavi Dhagat, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Because the nanoparticles used are made of iron, Dr. Remcho said, “we can use magnetism and electronics to make them also function as a signaling device, to give immediate access to the information available.”

When a chemical of interest is detected, a “ferromagnetic resonance” is used to relay the information electronically to a tiny computer and the information immediately displayed to the user. The device made from this approach could also be more affordable because no special thin films or complex processing would be required, according to the OSU team. The work “could completely change the world of chemical assays,” Dhagat added.

Existing assays are often cumbersome and time consuming, using biochemical probes that require expensive equipment, expert personnel or a complex laboratory to detect or interpret. In the new approach, nanoparticles could be attached to these biochemical probes, tagging along to see what they find.

The detector could be used to find almost any substance in air or water, including anthrax, ricin, smallpox or other dangerous agents.

The OSU work is supported by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, in collaboration with the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.

Beyond that, improved environmental monitoring of water, air and food supplies could be accomplished.

Other OSU researchers on the team include OSU graduate students Tim Marr and Esha Chatterjee. The work is published in the journal Sensors and Actuators.