Imitating the antennas of the silkmoth to design a system for detecting explosives with unparalleled performance. Made up of a silicon microcantilever bearing nearly 500,000 aligned titanium dioxide nanotubes, this device is capable of detecting concentrations of trinitrotoluene (TNT) of around 800 ppq (1) (i.e. 800 molecules of explosive per 10^15 molecules of air), thereby improving one thousand-fold the detection limit attainable until now. This innovative concept could also be used to detect drugs, toxic agents and traces of organic pollutants. This work was published on May 29 2012 in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Research and development work is still necessary before an easy-to-use device based on these nanostructured levers can be obtained. Let's remind that earlier this year a team from Nederlands used the Cricket to build nanostructured ultra sensitive antennas.
Research is led by a team from the "Nanomatériaux pour Systèmes sous Sollicitations Extrêmes" unit (CNRS / Institut Franco-Allemand de Recherches de Saint-Louis), in collaboration with the Laboratoire des Matériaux, Surfaces et Procédés pour la Catalyse (CNRS / Université de Strasbourg), FRANCE.