Consisting of 1,536 nanotube-FET sensors along with a digital backplane for individually addressable gating and readout, the sensor chip is the first integrating high temperature carbon nanotube growth with a conventional logic backplane. Development of this milestone in the use of nanotube transistors was funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the auspices of its RealNose program
The goal of the DARPA RealNose program is to build a “nose” constructed from actual olfactory receptors that further leverages the components of the canine olfactory system to create a breakthrough detection system with potential capabilities beyond that of a canine. Approaches currently under investigation include novel olfactory receptor expression and stabilization techniques, signal transduction procedures, and revolutionary pattern recognition methodology.
When functionalized with single-strand DNA (ssDNA), Evolved Machines’ affiliate Nanosense has demonstrated that this new class of sensors exhibits sequence-specific, rapid, and highly reversible responses to volatile odorants. These properties enable a new generation of both hand-held and robotically mounted sensors, allowing the repeated re-sampling required to identify target odorants in the presence of complex background environments. The DNA sequence-dependence of analyte binding confers enormous dimensionality, allowing chemical detection of diverse odorants with a single chip. Applications for sensor devices based on this technology range from the detection of explosives and contraband, to the monitoring of industrial environments for toxic industrial chemicals, to breath-based diagnosis of lung cancer and other disease emitting a volatile signature.
In addition, recent results have demonstrated that the nanotube-FET sensor can also be functionalized with membrane proteins embedded in nanoscale membrane discs (Nanodiscs). Ligand- and receptor-specific binding is then read out as a concentration-specific perturbation of transistor current. Here the array of nanotube FET’s can be functionalized with a panel of membrane proteins, with their binding to candidate molecules read out rapidly and electronically. This class of sensor chips comprise a new platform for the screening of compounds against panels of membrane receptors, with potentially broad and powerful applications across biotechnology, including but not limited to drug development.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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