Carbon Nanotubes as Platforms for Biosensors with Electrochemical and Electronic Transduction

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Accurately being able to reproduce this effect for a desired sensor in a laboratory would imply that scientists could manufacture nanosensors much more quickly and potentially far more cheaply by letting numerous molecules assemble themselves with little or no outside influence, rather than having to manually assemble each sensor.

One of the first working examples of a synthetic nanosensor was built by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in The discrepancy between the two frequencies allowed the researchers to measure the mass of the attached particle. Since then, increasing amounts of research have gone into nanosensors, whereby modern nanosensors have been developed for many applications.

Currently, the applications of nanosensors in the market include: healthcare, defense and military, and others such as food, environment, and agriculture. Nanoscience as a whole has much potential for applications in the defense and military sector. Applications include chemical detection, decontamination, and forensics.

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However, the primary efforts surrounding nanosensors largely remain in research and development. Some nanosensors in development for defense applications include nanosensors for the detection of explosives or toxic gases. Such nanosensors work on the principle that gas molecules can be distinguished based on their mass using, for example, piezoelectric sensors. If a gas molecule is adsorbed at the surface of the detector, the resonance frequency of the crystal changes and this can be measured as a change in electrical properties.

In addition, field effect transistors, used as potentiometers, can detect toxic gases if their gate is made sensitive to them. In a similar application, nanosensors can be utilized in military and law enforcement clothing and gear. The Navy Research Laboratory's Institute for Nanoscience has studied quantum dots for application in nanophotonics and identifying biological materials.

Nanoparticles layered with polymers and other receptor molecules will change color when contacted by analytes such as toxic gases. Other projects involve embedding clothing with biometric sensors to relay information regarding the user's health and vitals, [14] which would be useful for monitoring soldiers in combat. Surprisingly, some of the most challenging aspects in creating nanosensors for defense and military use are political in nature, rather than technical.

Many different government agencies must work together to allocate budgets and share information and progress in testing; this can be difficult with such large and complex institutions. Nanosensors can improve various sub-areas within food and environment sectors including food processing, agriculture, air and water quality monitoring, and packaging and transport.

These nanosensors enable rapid analysis of samples and detection of contaminants in food which is especially important for downstream processing and perishable items. Chemical sensors are useful for analyzing odors from food samples and detecting atmospheric gases. The "electronic nose" was developed in to determine the quality and freshness of food samples using traditional sensors, but more recently the sensing film has been improved with nanomaterials.

A sample is placed in a chamber where volatile compounds become concentrated in the gas phase, whereby the gas is then pumped through the chamber to carry the aroma to the sensor that measures its unique fingerprint. The high surface area to volume ratio of the nanomaterials allows for greater interaction with analytes and the nanosensor's fast response time enables the separation of interfering responses.

Carbon nanotubes have been used to sense ionization of gaseous molecules while nanotubes made out of titanium have been employed to detect atmospheric concentrations of hydrogen at the molecular level. When that particular molecule, and only that specific molecule, fits into the nanosensor, and light is shone upon the nanosensor, it will reflect different wavelengths of light and, thus, be a different color. Other types of nanosensors, including quantum dots and gold nanoparticles, are currently being developed to detect pollutants and toxins in the environment.

Quantum dot surfaces can be modified with antibodies that bind specifically to environmental pollutants. Gold nanoparticle-based optical sensors can be used to detect heavy metals very precisely; for example, mercury levels as low as 0. This sensing modality takes advantage of fluorescence resonance energy transfer FRET , in which the presence of metals inhibits the interaction between quantum dots and gold nanoparticles, and quenches the FRET response. The main challenge associated with using nanosensors in food and the environment is determining their associated toxicity and overall effect on the environment.

Currently, there is insufficient knowledge on how the implementation of nanosensors will affect the soil, plants, and humans in the long-term. This is difficult to fully address because nanoparticle toxicity depends heavily on the type, size, and dosage of the particle as well as environmental variables including pH, temperature, and humidity To mitigate potential risk, research is being done to manufacture safe, nontoxic nanomaterials, as part of an overall effort towards green nanotechnology.

Nanomaterial-based biosensors for biological detections

One example of nanosensors involves using the fluorescence properties of cadmium selenide quantum dots as sensors to uncover tumors within the body. A downside to the cadmium selenide dots, however, is that they are highly toxic to the body. As a result, researchers are working on developing alternate dots made out of a different, less toxic material while still retaining some of the fluorescence properties.

In particular, they have been investigating the particular benefits of zinc sulfide quantum dots which, though they are not quite as fluorescent as cadmium selenide, can be augmented with other metals including manganese and various lanthanide elements. In addition, these newer quantum dots become more fluorescent when they bond to their target cells.

Another application of nanosensors involves using silicon nanowires in IV lines to monitor organ health. The nanowires are sensitive to detect trace biomarkers that diffuse into the IV line through blood which can monitor kidney or organ failure. These nanowires would allow for continuous biomarker measurement, which provides some benefits in terms of temporal sensitivity over traditional biomarker quantification assays such as ELISA. Nanosensors can also be used to detect contamination in organ implants. The nanosensor is embedded into the implant and detects contamination in the cells surrounding the implant through an electric signal sent to a clinician or healthcare provider.

The nanosensor can detect whether the cells are healthy, inflammatory, of contaminated with bacteria.


Currently, there are stringent regulations in place for the development of standards for nanosensors to be used in the medical industry, due to insufficient knowledge of the adverse effects of nanosensors as well as potential cytotoxic effects of nanosensors. To mitigate the drawback of cost, researchers are looking into manufacturing nanosensors made of more cost-effective materials.

Recent Advances on Electrochemical Biosensing Strategies toward Universal Point‐of‐Care Systems

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