E-nosy Phone Sniffs Out Danger

In the sometimes baffling array of proposed applications for nanotechnology in mobile phones,  we have a new addition with which your mobile phone can detect harmful, airborne substances.

The nanotechnology developed by the University of California (UC) Riverside researchers, led by Nosang Myung, professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, uses nanowires made with functionalized carbon nanotubes in a sensor array to detect dangerous substances in a portable device.

While these proposed applications for mobile phones using nanotechnology are often as much marketing spin as real-world, commercial possibilities, in this case it appears that Riverside, CA-based Innovation Economy Corporation (IE Corp) has plans to commercialize the research. IE Corp is handling the commercialization through the start-up it created and funded, Nano Engineering Applications, Inc.

Nonetheless once again the mobile phone tie-in seems as though it might just be a bit of a marketing ploy. Developed using functionalized carbon nanotubes, the sensor has a broad range of applications from agriculture—where it would detect concentrations of pesticides—to military applications for detecting chemical warfare agents.

All of these are worthwhile applications, but I suppose if you want any chance of getting in the mainstream press, you have to couch your technology in terms of people’s smart phone. Detecting pesticides just doesn’t have the same appeal.

In any case, a mobile phone that can detect dangerous airborne substances is similar to the recent research out of Princeton and Tufts Universities in which a graphene nanosensor could be placed on your teeth for detecting dangerous bacteria.  It's not clear whether the UC Riverside researchers and their commercial partner IE Corp will continue to purse the portable health monitoring aspect of the technology, but it should keep the technology in the press while they pursue the various other applications.

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Nanoclast

IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

 
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