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Work with nanoparticles designed to simplify detection process

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Feb. 29, 2016) — A Kennesaw State University chemistry professor’s research using baby wipes could play a significant role in beefing up airport security, leading to quicker, more reliable and environmentally friendly screening materials to detect explosives.  

Bharat Baruah, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, is conducting research using baby wipes, which have been chemically modified by imbedding silver nanoparticles. In the growing field of nanomaterial research, the metal nanoparticles – which are slightly bigger than molecules – act as a sensor to help detect contaminants.

“The silver nanoparticles-coated baby wipe is rubbed on the surface to be tested to collect a small sample, which is then passed under a Raman spectrometer,” Baruah explained. “The machine shines a laser light on the wipe, and the contaminant material produces a chemical signature, like a fingerprint, based on the unique vibration in the targeted molecules.”

While the Raman technique normally requires millions of contaminant molecules to obtain an accurate chemical signature, only a few molecules are needed in the presence of silver nanoparticles. Baruah points out that each fiber in the wipe has countless anchor molecules that can securely bind with the metal nanoparticles.

According to Baruah, the simplicity of using baby wipes and the Raman spectrometer means personnel can easily be trained to use the technique in an airport setting.

For restaurant/food service environments, the nanoparticle-embedded baby wipe could also help detect the bacteria that may contaminate food. The test results would immediately be available, obviating the need to send samples to a lab for processing.

Baruah’s latest research appears in the January edition of RSC Advances, the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering nearly 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive university with more than 33,000 students from over 130 countries. In January 2015, Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic State University consolidated to create one of the 50 largest public universities in the country.

─ Robert S. Godlewski

Photo: David Caselli