The researchers produced nanoscale wires by electrochemically depositing metals within the tiny cavities of porous mineral solids. They then layered the gold and silver in a specific way to produce nanowires with different characteristic stripe patterns depending on which pathogen they were trying to identify.
The reflection pattern and fluorescence from each stripe sequence can later be clearly recognized, similar to a barcode on a retail product.
“Antibodies of specific pathogens have been attached to the wires,” said Jeffrey Tok, principal author from LLNL. “This produces a small, reliable, sensitive detection system that can easily be taken into the field.”
The system not only applies to biowarfare agents, but could also be used during an outbreak of an infectious disease.