Magnetic ‘nanobeads’ now seem to have profound implications in several fields including bioterrorism, medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring or even water and food safety. Scientists from the Oregon State University have discovered a method to use magnetic ‘nanobeads’ for detecting chemical and biological agents in a number of applications. The research findings may revolutionize the size, speed and accuracy of chemical detection systems around the world.
Investigators believe that tapping into the capability of ferromagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles is the key to attain ‘microfluidic sensor.’ Using such particles in the new system can supposedly help identify chemicals with sensitivity and selectivity. They can also be reportedly incorporated into a system of integrated circuits to instantly display the findings. Hence, a powerful sensing technology which is fast, accurate, inexpensive, mass-producible, and small can be crafted.
“The particles we’re using are 1,000 times smaller than those now being used in common diagnostic tests, allowing a device to be portable and used in the field. Just as important, however, is that these nanoparticles are made of iron. Because of that, we can use magnetism and electronics to make them also function as a signaling device, to give us immediate access to the information available,” shared Vincent Remcho, an OSU professor of chemistry.
The present day assays appear not only cumbersome, but also time consuming. They probably employ biochemical probes that require expensive equipment, expert personnel or a complex laboratory to detect or interpret. The newly put forth approach, on the other hand, involves the attachment of tiny nanoparticles to these biochemical probes. Once a chemical of interest is detected, a ‘ferromagnetic resonance’ can be allegedly put to use for relaying the information electronically to a tiny computer. This data may be immediately viewed by users.
The new method does not require special thin films or complex processing, but the detection capability is still extremely sensitive and accurate. The system can possibly identify anything of interest in air or water. Rapid detection of chemical toxins such as anthrax, ricin or smallpox can be of great importance. The introduced concept can seemingly improve monitoring of commercial water treatment and supplies as well.
The research is published in the journal in Sensors and Actuators.