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Portable optical chemical sensor with a threshold level of <1 ppb

We propose to develop new simple and cost efficient optical chemical sensors with a threshold level of <1 ppb. The sensors are based on new class of materials- "coherent materials", which exhibit an array of unusual optical and electro-physical properties, such as abnormally high intensity of Raman scattering and exceptionally high efficiency of energy migration between oscillating atoms and bonds. The extraordinary strong spectral response of coherent materials can be easily detected using even a simple hand held device.

Table of contents.

1. Introduction.
2. Review of sensors characteristics.
3. Analysis.
4. Introducing to new generation of chemical optical sensors.
5. Hyper-Sensors based on "coherent materials".

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1. Introduction.

Modern industry, agriculture and medicine from one side, and the threats of terrorism, narcotics and man-made disasters from the other made necessary the development of chemical sensors with threshold levels of <1 ppb (parts per billion). Such equipment already exists in laboratories: the most sensitive spectrophotometers, spectrometers and chromatographs in combination with mass-spectrographs can identify single molecules. They are, however, expensive and unwieldy, and require specialized operational environments. The majority of potential users require inexpensive equipment, suitable for field applications, and capable of quickly detecting traces of analyte chemicals.

An overview of scientific and patent literature indicates that two methods are commonly employed to raise sensitivity of optical chemical sensors [1]. The first concerns the development of new materials whose interaction with analyte molecules shows an enhancement of spectral response. The second involves development of more effective platforms employing the latest optoelectronics. The goal thus is to create optical chemical sensors with the highest enhancement of spectral response possible for the specific types of analyte chemicals, on platforms that provide the highest possible detection efficiency.
[1] Denise Michele Wilson, Member, IEEE, Sean Hoyt, Jiri Janata, Karl Booksh, and Louis Oband, "Chemical Sensors for Portable, Handheld Field Instruments", IEEE SENSORS JOURNAL, VOL. 1, NO. 4, DECEMBER 2001

There are two types of sensors based on enhancement of spectral response. The first type exhibits the enhancement of spectral response from the sensor material upon its interaction with analyte molecules. The second shows increased spectral response from the analyte molecules upon its interaction with sensor material. Effects of the first type are characteristic of interaction between analyte molecules and nano-particles or nano-scale modifications of inorganic semiconductors, conjugated polymers, dyes and carbon materials. Effects of the second type appear in interaction of analyte chemicals with nanoparticles and nano-scale modifications of noble metals.

Below are some of the parameters of these two types of sensors as contrasted with sensors based on electrical transducers. The latter type of sensors is based on measurement of electro-physical parameters of the sensor materials; we will thus correlate them with optical sensors of the first type.

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e-mail: kobryan@nanopolyacetylene.com