Jan 23, 2017 | Updated: 09:37 AM EST

Carbon Nanotubes Device Captures Elusive Bioparticles

Dec 21, 2015 11:04 PM EST

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new way in detecting elusive molecules. The new technique uses carbon nanotube "forest" that can detect very small particles.

Carbon nanotubes had long been the subject of many studies. Researchers have been working to harness the potential of this technology. Carbon nanotubes had been used in different situations from detecting spoiled meat to aircraft coating. A research from MIT has turned this particular material to capture small bioparticles including certain viruses.

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The MIT team modified a simple microfluidic channel with an array of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes. These are rolled lattices of carbon atoms that look like chicken wire tubes. The reason that this method is called "forest" is the researchers had already used this method of standing carbon nanotubes on their ends like trees in a forest.

"You can think of each nanotube in the forest as being concentrically coated with different layers of polymer," Brian Wardle, MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics, said. "If you drew it in cross-section, it would be like rings on a tree."

The team had coated an array of nanotube with multi-layers of polymers. These polymers had alternating charges. Placing a 3D array of carbon nanotubes, the team was able to grow and pattern carbon nanotubes onto silicon wafers. The entire process was also done with both chemical vapor deposition method and photolithography in the mix.

Carbon nanotubes had undergone research because of their mechanical, electrical and optical properties that are both exceptional and ideal.

"Science is really picking up on how much information these particles contain, and they're sort of everywhere, but really hard to find, even with large-scale equipment," Wardle said. "This type of device actually has all the characteristics and functionality that would allow you to go after bioparticles like exosomes and things that really truly are nanometer scale."

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