Airborne chemicals instantly identified using new technology developed at NTU Singapore

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a gadget that can recognize a vast array of airborne gases and chemicals instantly.

The new model gadget is portable and appropriate for quick implementation by companies to recognize airborne dangers, such as from small gas particles like sulphur dioxide. It can likewise recognize bigger substance particles such as benzene, understood to be damaging to human health.

It can offer real-time tracking of air quality such as throughout haze break outs, and help in the detection of gas leakages and commercial air contamination.

Developed by a research study group led by Partner Teacher Ling Xing Yi at the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, the new technology was reported last month in science journal ACS Nano.

Existing techniques of determining gases in the air utilize a lab method called Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), which is trusted however needs tiresome sample collection and takes in between a couple of hours and a couple of days to acquire arise from air samples.

Emergency situation circumstances need a quick and continuous analysis of possible air contamination, such as following a natural catastrophe, chemical spill or unlawful discarding of harmful waste, so that emergency situation responders can take suitable action.

How the new gadget works

The new gadget utilizes a little spot made from an unique permeable and metal nanomaterial to very first trap gas particles. When a laser is shone on it from a couple of metres away, the light engages with the gas particles, triggering light of a lower energy to be discharged. When evaluated, it provides a spectroscopic readout in the format of a graph chart.

The spectroscopic readout imitates a “chemical fingerprint” representing numerous chemicals present on the spot. The entire procedure takes about 10 seconds to finish.

These chemical finger prints from the sample are referenced versus a virtual library of finger prints to rapidly identify what chemicals have actually been spotted.

Called Raman spectroscopy, this is a long-established method for determining chemical compounds. Usually, it has actually been utilized just on strong and liquid samples, because gaseous chemicals are too water down for the laser and detector to get.

To conquer this constraint, Assoc Prof Ling and her PhD trainee Mr Phan Quang Gia Chuong developed an unique nanostructure made from an extremely permeable artificial product called a metal-organic structure, which actively takes in and traps particles from the air into a ‘cage’.

This nanostructure likewise includes metal nanoparticles, which improve the strength of the light surrounding the particles. The outcome is a million-fold improvement in the Raman spectroscopy signals, which permits the recognition of the caught particles.

Assoc Prof Ling stated the genesis of the development was stimulated by an event in Singapore, where there were reports of a strong gas-like smell over specific parts of the island in 2017. The cause was just identified a couple of days later on, and was traced to unpredictable natural substances launched by factories beyond Singapore.

Together with her hubby, Dr Phang In-Yee, a job leader and researcher at the Institute of Products Research Study and Engineering (IMRE), they conceptualised the concept of determining gases instantly from a range.

“Our device can work remotely, so the operation of the laser camera and analysis of chemicals can be done safely at a distance. This is especially useful when it is not known if the gases are hazardous to human health,” discusses Assoc Prof Ling, Head of the Department of Chemistry & Biological Chemistry at NTU.

The laser was evaluated in experiments to develop to 10 metres away and can be crafted to reach more ranges. Another possible technique is to utilize the chip to record gases, which is consequently evaluated with a laser.

Ultra-sensitive and precise outcome

In experiments, the group revealed that the gadget can recognize airborne particles such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), consisting of naphthalene and derivatives of benzene, a household of colourless commercial air toxins understood to be extremely carcinogenic.

It can discover PAHs at parts-per-billion (ppb) concentrations in the environment in addition to carrying out constant tracking of the concentration of the various kinds of gases like co2 (CO2) in the environment, which might be a useful application in numerous commercial settings.

The laser utilized in the gadget has an energy strength of 50 miliwatts, more than 7 times weaker than in other applications of Raman spectroscopy. This makes the system much safer to run and more energy effective.

Through NTUitive, NTU’s development and business business, the group has actually applied for a patent and is now commercialising the technology for usage in contamination tracking, chemical catastrophe reaction, in addition to other commercial applications.


Notes to Editor:

Paper entitled “Tracking Airborne Molecules from Afar: Three-Dimensional Metal-Organic Framework-Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering Platform for Stand-Off and Real-Time Atmospheric Monitoring”, released in ACS Nano, 13 Sept 2019.

Images of the research study group and their development can be downloaded here. Credit to NTU Singapore.

Media contact:

Lester Kok

Assistant Director

Business Communications Workplace

Nanyang Technological University

Email: [email protected]

About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate trainees in the Engineering, Organisation, Science, Liberal Arts, Arts, & Social Sciences, and Graduate colleges. It likewise has a medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medication, established collectively with Imperial College London.

NTU is likewise house to first-rate self-governing institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Researches, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre for Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and numerous leading research study centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Study Institute (NEWRI) and Energy Research Study Institute @ NTU ([email protected]).

Ranked 11th on the planet, NTU has actually been positioned the world’s leading young university for the previous 6 years. The NTU Smart School is regularly noted amongst the Leading 15 most gorgeous university schools on the planet and it has 57 Green Mark-certified (comparable to LEED-certified) structure jobs, of which 95% are accredited Green Mark Platinum. Apart from its primary school, NTU likewise has a school in Novena, Singapore’s health care district.

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