A new chemical sensor, designed by engineers at the University of Oxford, are set to revolutionise everything from terrorism prevention, environmental monitoring, reusable electronics, medical diagnostics to food safety.
Engineers have been able to use material compounds – known as Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) – to create a new technology which can sense and respond to light and chemicals.
The new material can visibly change its colour depending on what it detects.
While “Photonic Sensors” are already a rapidly expanding global market the new research could be used to develop (MOFs) at much lower cost.
Reduced costs would enable new innovative applications; new methods of protecting society from crime and terrorism, new biosensors for safeguarding against chemical poisoning and food contamination or even hand-held medical devices for non-invasive diagnosis and therapy.
As MOFs can be tuned to detect different substances they have been described as ‘solid molecular sponges’.
The technology works by creating a highly porous framework where metal atoms are bridged by organic linker molecules. The properties of these frameworks can be tweaked to allow engineers to control what it will sense.
This new material has remarkable physical and chemical properties that will open the door to many unconventional applications. MOF materials are getting smarter, and with further research can be useful for engineering intelligent sensors and multi-functional devices Professor Jin-Chong Tan – Multi-functional Materials & Composites (MMC) Lab in the Department of Engineering at Oxford University
The next step from the team will be toexplore healthcare applications for the material (such as the deployment of photochemical sensors inside diagnostic hand-held breathalysers for conditions such as diabetes).