Scientists edging closer to ‘artificial noses’

April 24th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

London, April 24 (IANS) Tracking something as elusive as a single molecule has been made possible by minute strings that resonate in characteristic fashion.
If a molecule docks onto one of the strings, then it becomes heavier, and its oscillations become measurably slower.

Until recently, however, such ‘nano-electromechanical systems’ or NEMS, have been short of practical applications. Physicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU), Munich have now made a breakthrough in this field.

They have constructed a system of nanostrings made of non-conducting material, where each string can be electrically excited, separately.

Thousands of these strings can be produced on a small chip. One of the devices that could be created with this system is a highly sensitive “artificial nose” that detects various molecules individually (for example pollutants), said an LMU release.

These new NEMS could also be used in a multitude of other applications - acting as tiny pulse generators in mobile phone clocks, for example.

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