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NASA Nano Sensor Helps Detect Biohazards

A nanotechnology-based biosensor developed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA, detects trace amounts of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The sensor has been licensed to Early Warning Inc. of Troy, NY, which will use the sensor to prevent the spread of potentially deadly biohazards in water, food, and other sources.

Initially, the sensor will be configured to detect the presence of common and rare strains of microorganisms associated with water-borne illnesses and fatalities. Said Meyya Meyyappan, chief scientist for exploration technology at NASA Ames, “The biosensor makes use of ultra-sensitive carbon nanotubes, which can detect biohazards at very low levels.”

He explained that “when biohazards are present, the biosensor generates an electrical signal, which is used to determine the presence and concentration levels of specific microorganisms in the sample. Because of their tiny size, millions of nanotubes can fit on a single biosensor chip.”

Early Warning predicts that food and beverage companies, water utilities, industrial plants, hospitals, and airlines could use the biosensor to prevent outbreaks of illnesses caused by pathogens without the need for a laboratory or technicians. The company plans to launch their water-testing products later this year.

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