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November 12, 2008 -- Researchers in Missouri have borrowed the technology that
living cells use to produce energy to develop a tiny, self-powered sensor for
rapid detection of hidden explosives. The experimental sensor, about the size of
a postage stamp, represents the first of its kind to be powered by mitochondria,
the microscopic “powerhouses” that provide energy to living cells, the
researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the November 26 issue of the
weekly Journal of the American Chemical
In the new study, Shelley Minteer, Marguerite
Germain, and Robert Arechederra point out that today’s explosives detectors are
expensive, bulky, and complex. Society needs smaller, cheaper, simpler detection
devices, based on technology that perhaps could be incorporated into cell phones
and portable digital music players, the researchers suggest.
scientists describe development of an experimental sensor built from a special
biofuel cell, essentially a battery-like device consisting of a thin layer of
mitochondria sandwiched between a carbon-based electrode and a gas-permeable
electrode. In laboratory studies using nitrobenzene as a test compound, the
sensor showed a significant boost in electrical power in the presence of the
substance, demonstrating the sensor’s potential for detecting TNT and related
explosives, the researchers say.
News release courtesy of The American Chemical Society.
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