Motorola, Arizona State advance carbon nanotube sensing capabilities

Sept. 7, 2006 — Motorola Labs, the applied research arm of Motorola Inc., and Arizona State University announce a key advancement in the use of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes (SWNTs) in field effect transistors (FETs) to sense biological and chemical agents.

Together, the research teams have developed a method to functionalize SWNTs with peptides to produce low-power SWNT-FETs that are highly sensitive and can selectively detect heavy metal ions down to the parts-per-trillion level.

“Integration of nanosensors into devices and sensor networks will enable the detection of biological and chemical agents at very low concentrations, which could be vital in the areas of public safety and homeland security,” said Vida Ilderem, vice president of embedded systems research labs in Tempe, Ariz., in a prepared statement. “In the future, these sensors could be integrated into devices to produce a powerful network that can seamlessly communicate environmental changes to people or other devices.”

Researchers have successfully tuned SWNT-FETs to sense specific agents by applying a peptide-functionalized polymer coating that does not affect their ability to transmit electrical signals. This developing sensor technology could be used to monitor a host of environmental and health issues including air and water quality, industrial chemicals and biological agents.

The work is reported in a paper coauthored by Arizona State University and Motorola titled “Tuning the Chemical Selectivity of SWNT-FETs for Detection of Heavy-Metal Ions” that will be published in the journal Small.


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