Scientists 'sniff Out' New Sensing Aid

PALO ALTO, Calif., Aug. 20 (UPI) — Researchers say a new approach to building an artificial “nose” could lead to detectors for everything from just-starting-to-sour milk to explosives.

By putting fluorescent compounds onto short strands of the molecules that form the backbone of DNA, Stanford University researchers have created tiny sensor molecules that change color when they detect certain substances, a university release said Thursday.


“We were blown away by how strong the color changes were,” Eric Kool, professor of chemistry and senior author of the study, said.

Sensors using the new technique could convey far more information than most other existing optical sensors that typically can detect just one specific substance, Kool said.

“One of the surprising findings was that we could tell the difference between four different organic vapors with just one sensor, because it would turn different colors with different vapors,” he said.

“One of our long-term goals is to now build up a set of sensors for a much more complex range of possible substances for analysis,” Kool said. “Because we get such a diversity of responses … we could have a set of 10 or 20, or 100 sensors, which would give a vast array of responses to many different kinds of molecules.

“We want to sense everything. That is our ultimate goal.”

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