Research scientists at Georgia Tech have built nano-scale detectors so sensitive that they will be capable of spotting individual cancer cells.
The detectors are based on a new kind of quasi-one dimensional nano material, dubbed nanobelts or nanoribbons, which can be made from a variety of materials, like zinc or tin oxides. They are typically between 30nm and 300nm wide, and can be a few millimetres long.
The semiconducting nanobelts, first synthesised in 2001, can be tuned to exhibit certain behaviours. Introducing oxygen vacancies can affect their conductivity, surface and optical properties.
The researchers, led by Professor Zhong Lin Wang, say they have been able to take advantage of the molecules' flexibility to build field effect transistors and ultra-sensitive nano-sized gas detectors.
These nanostructures are ideal objects for building sensors with biomedical applications, Professor Wang said, ahead of a presentation at the EMAG-Nano 2005 conference in Leeds yesterday, such as force sensors, blood flow sensors and cancer detectors.
He added: "We would like to use these materials for in-situ, real-time, non-destructive and remote monitoring and detection of cancer cells at a sensitivity of a single cell". ®