"We're hoping our research will pave the way to create a lab-on-a-chip that can identify trace pollutants in the field or at home," said Somenth Mitra, PhD, professor of chemistry at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Eventually with the aid of such a versatile instrument any worker or homemaker will be able to whip out a cheap, throw-away sensor--just like the ones drug stores now sell for early pregnancy tests--and quickly learn if a toxic chemical is in the air, food or water.
Mitra will deliver his data at the American Chemical Society's 227th national meeting in Anaheim, CA, March 31, 2004 at 9:15 a.m. PST (12:15 p.m., E.S.T.). The name of the presentation is "Self-Assembly of nanoparticles For Preconcentration in Environmental Sensing Platforms." (Editors and reporters may call Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436, to arrange in-person or telephone interviews with Dr. Mitra in California or when he returns to New Jersey.)
The growing need for inexpensive, portable monitoring devices has added new impetus to the miniaturization of chemical analysis systems. Miniaturization using nanotechnology yields many functional and economical benefits because of the reduction of a necessary sample size, the decrease in reagent consumption and the lower costs of mass production.
However, scientists cannot sacrifice results to create alternatives. "Yes, the idea behind our work is to miniaturize things or systems using nanotechnology," said Mitra. "But not at the expense of quality. To solve real-world environmental problems, the products must reach certain standards. They must be highly sensitive, selective, able to reproduce, exhibit a short response time as well as exhibit long-term stability."