Scientists from the University of Bath (UK) and Northwestern University (USA) have developed a new type of sensor platform using a gold nanoparticle array, which is 100 times more sensitive than current similar sensors.

The sensor is made up of a series of gold disk-shaped nanoparticles on a glass slide. The team at Bath discovered that when they shone an infra-red laser at a precise arrangement of the particles, they started to emit unusual amounts of ultra violet (UV) light.

This mechanism for generating UV light is affected by molecules binding to the surface of the nanoparticles, providing a means of sensing a very small amount of material.

The researchers, from the University of Bath’s Department of Physics, hope that in the future they can use the technology to develop new ultra-sensitive sensors for air pollution or for medical diagnostics.

Dr Ventsislav Valev, Royal Society Research Fellow and Reader in Physics at the University of Bath, led the work with Research Associate David Hooper.

He explained: “This new mechanism has great potential for detecting small molecules. It is 100 times more sensitive than current methods.

Image Credit:   V.K Valev and D.C Hooper

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