An Oregon State University team has discovered a method on the usage of magnetic nanobeads to track chemical and biological agents that could be applicable in bioterrorism, medical diagnostics, environmental control, and water and food safety. The portable sensor could deliver a diagnostic laboratory on a single chip when fully developed.
The research paper recently appeared in Sensors and Actuators, and the university is awaiting a patent on this technology. The collaborative research team was led by Vincent Remcho, a professor of chemistry at OSU, and Pallavi Dhagat, an assistant professor in the OSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The use of ferromagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the system could help identify chemicals with sensitivity and selectivity and could be integrated into a system of circuits to immediately display the results.
According to Dhagat, this development could help develop potent sensing technology that is precise, cost- effective, nano-sized and could be mass manufactured. Nanoparticles could be bound to the biochemical probes, which will help the team view their findings. When a target chemical is identified, a ferromagnetic resonance helps transmit the information electronically to a nano-computer. The data instantly gets viewed by the user. The system does not require any thin films or complicated processing. The system could identify any substance both in air and water.
It could enable quick identification of chemical toxins in bioterrorism, including anthrax, ricin or smallpox, where prompt, precise and sensitive tests would be required. The research program has received a four-year grant from the Army Research Laboratory, together with the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute.
The system could also be used to monitor commercial water treatment, environmental monitoring, cargo inspections, biomedical applications in research or health care, pharmaceutical drug testing, or food safety.