Porous photonic crystal microsensor particles on the ends of optical fibers can detect organic pollutants.
The carbon nanostructures were created by researchers at the University of California, San Diego, led by Michael Sailor, and Tyco Electronics. Sailor's research group successfully embedded these fibers into activated charcoal canisters used for respirators. For emergency workers who wear respirators to avoid inhaling toxic fumes, these sensors could be used to alert them when the carbon filters in their respirators have become dangerously saturated.
Sailor, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and bioengineering at UC San Diego, says "The new sensors would provide a more accurate reading of how much material the carbon in the filters has actually absorbed. Because these carbon nanofibers have the same chemical properties as the activated charcoal used in respirators, they have a similar ability to absorb organic pollutants."
This research was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (grant DMR 08-06859). To learn more, see the UC San Diego news release New Material Could Improve Safety for First Responders to Chemical Hazards.
(Date of Image: January 2009)
Credit: Brian H. King and Michael J. Sailor, University of California, San Diego