Researchers at MIT have developed a new way of revealing the presence of specific chemicals—whether toxins, disease markers, pathogens or explosives. The system visually signals the presence of a target chemical by emitting a fluorescent glow.
The approach combines fluorescent molecules with an open scaffolding called a metal-organic framework (MOF). This structure provides lots of open space for target molecules to occupy, bringing them into close proximity with fluorescent molecules that react to their presence.
The work could have significant applications in sensors attuned to specific compounds whose detection could be read at a glance simply by watching for the material to glow. “A lot of known sensors work in reverse,” Dincă says, meaning they “turn off” in the presence of the target compound. “Turn-on sensors are better,” he says, because “they’re easier to detect, the contrast is better.”
Source: David L. Chandler for the MIT News Office.