Nanowire “barcode” system to facilitate detection of bioterrorism agents in the field

Published 10 August 2006

Nanotechnolgy has already made many contributions to homeland security, and here is an intriguing one: Researchers in several California research centers join to demonstrate how nanowire barcodes can help in detecting bioterror agents – and epidemic carriers

Here is another contribution nanotechnology makes to the war on terrorism: Thanks to a new barcode system based on biosensing nanowires developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, it will become easier to detect biowarfare agents in the field.

A team of researchers, led by Jeffrey Tok of LLNL’s BioSecurity and Nanosciences Laboratory and including researchers from Stanford University, the UC-Davis Center for Biophotonics, and Nanoplex Technologies, built submicrometer layers of different metals including gold, silver, and nickel which act as “barcodes” for detecting a variety of pathogens including anthrax, smallpox, ricin, and botulinum. The team used the multi-striped metallic nanowires in a suspended format rapidly to identify sensitive single and multiplex immunoassays that simulated biowarfare agents.

The researchers produced nanoscale wires by electrochemically depositing metals inside the tiny cavities of porous mineral solids. The researchers then layered the gold and silver in a specific way to produce nanowires with different characteristic stripe patterns depending on which pathogen they were trying to identify. The reflection pattern and fluorescence from each stripe sequence can later be clearly recognized, similar to a barcode on a retail product.

The methodology applies not only to biowarfare agents, but could also be used during an outbreak of an infectious disease.

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