Miniature spectrometer can detect biological hazards

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., March 17, 2003 Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a miniature device that can identify as little as a fraction of a spore of anthrax and other biological hazards within 30 milliseconds.

The Calorimetric Spectrometer (CalSpec TM) device technology can accurately identify biological hazards such as anthrax almost instantly. The device can operate with only a fraction of a spore while isolating the DNA/RNA photothermal signature that allows for detection, identification and measurement of a substance.

Such prompt detection and identification of hazardous materials could greatly enhance the protection of first-responder emergency personnel and the capabilities of early warning systems. Current technologies do not provide the level of sensitivity offered by the CalSpec TM chemical, biological and DNA/RNA detection system.

Researchers Panos Datskos and Slobodan Rajiic of ORNL's Engineering Science and Technology Division developed the CalSpec TM technology. ORNL has licensed the technology exclusively to Innovative American Technology of Herndon, Va., and Boca Raton, Fla.

The CalSpec TM can detect hazards by identifying their molecules. The molecular absorption can induce stress changes that allow for an initial detection that can be used for measurement. The identification of chemical and/or biological molecules, along with DNA/RNA, creates a photothermal signature.

The spectrometer could have a wide variety of applications in commercial industry and in homeland defense, including mass transit and airport security; in the postal industry, to protect workers and the public; and in monitoring air quality systems.

"The CalSpec TM detection device could provide a cost-effective and easily deployed upgrade for these systems to enable rapid detection, greater accuracy and most important increased sensitivity down to a fraction of a spore," said Jack Cumming


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