Nav: Home

Electronic nose smells pesticides and nerve gas

July 04, 2016

Detecting pesticides and nerve gas in very low concentrations. An international team of researchers led by Ivo Stassen and Rob Ameloot from KU Leuven, Belgium, have made it possible.

The best-known electronic nose is the breathalyser. As drivers breathe into the device, a chemical sensor measures the amount of alcohol in their breath. This chemical reaction is then converted into an electronic signal, allowing the police officer to read off the result. Alcohol is easy to detect, because the chemical reaction is specific and the concentration of the measured gas is fairly high. But many other gases are complex mixtures of molecules in very low concentrations. Building electronic noses to detect them is thus quite a challenge.

Researchers from KU Leuven have now built a very sensitive electronic nose with metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). "MOFs are like microscopic sponges," postdoctoral researcher Ivo Stassen explains. "They can absorb quite a lot of gas into their minuscule pores."

"We created a MOF that absorbs the phosphonates found in pesticides and nerve gases. This means you can use it to find traces of chemical weapons such as sarin or to identify the residue of pesticides on food. This MOF is the most sensitive gas sensor to date for these dangerous substances. Our measurements were conducted in cooperation with imec, the Leuven-based nanotechnology research centre. The concentrations we're dealing with are extremely low: parts per billion - a drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool - and parts per trillion."

The chemical sensor can easily be integrated into existing electronic devices, Professor Rob Ameloot adds. "You can apply the MOF as a thin film over the surface of, for instance, an electric circuit. Therefore, it's fairly easy to equip a smartphone with a gas sensor for pesticides and nerve gas."

"Further research will allow us to examine other applications as well," Professor Ameloot continues. "MOFs can measure very low concentrations, so we could use them to screen someone's breath for diseases such as lung cancer and MS in an early stage. Or we could use the signature scent of a product to find out whether food has gone bad or to distinguish imitation wine from the original. This technology, in other words, offers a wide range of perspectives."
-end-
This research project is funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and is carried out in collaboration with imec research centre for nanotechnology (Leuven and Eindhoven), Ghent University, and Kiel University.

More information about KU Leuven research into MOFs is available here and in Nature Materials.

KU Leuven

Related Pesticides Articles:

Nanozymes -- efficient antidote against pesticides
Members of the Faculty of Chemistry of the Lomonosov Moscow State University have developed novel nanosized agents -- nanozymes, which could be used as efficient protective and antidote modalities against the impact of neurotoxic organophosphorous compounds: pesticides and chemical warfare agents.
Study examines pesticides' impact on wood frogs
A new study looks at how neonicotinoid pesticides affect wood frogs, which use surface waters in agricultural environments to breed and reproduce.
USDA announces $1.8 million for research on next generation pesticides
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $1.8 million in available funding to research new, environmentally friendly pesticides and innovative tools and strategies to replace an older treatment, methyl bromide.
Light therapy could save bees from deadly pesticides
Treating bees with light therapy can counteract the harmful effects of neonicotinoid pesticides and improve survival rates of poisoned bees, finds a new UCL study.
The effects of pesticides on soil organisms are complex
There are significant interactions between soil management factors, including pesticide application, with respect to effects on soil organisms.
More Pesticides News and Pesticides Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...