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New security and medical sensor devices made possible by metallic nanostructures

Scientists have designed tiny new sensor structures that could be used in novel security devices to detect poisons and explosives, or in highly sensitive medical sensors, according to research published tomorrow (8 April) in Nano Letters.

The new ‘nanosensors’, which are based on a fundamental science discovery in UK, Belgian and US research groups, could be tailor-made to instantly detect the presence of particular molecules, for example poisons or explosives in transport screening situations, or proteins in patients’ blood samples, with high sensitivity.

The researchers were led by Imperial College London physicists funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The team showed that by putting together two specific ‘nanostructures’ made of gold or silver, they can make an early prototype device which, once optimised, should exhibit a highly sensitive ability to detect particular chemicals in the immediate surroundings.

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