We're developing functional nanomaterials into technologies for the future.

The challenge

Affordable monitoring for industrial applications

The health of the population, state of the environment and the quality of drinking water require new low cost monitoring solutions. The challenge is to develop a new generation of sensors based on novel nanomaterials that can meet these needs.

Our response

Low cost sensors based on gold nanoparticle films

Deposition of gold nanoparticles by inkjet printing

Our multidisciplinary team of chemists, physicists and engineers are developing low cost chemiresistor sensors which can analyse organic contamination in fluids for a variety of applications. These include environmental monitoring, water quality monitoring and rapid, point of care disease detection.

Our team draws inspiration from nature by designing materials, sensors and devices that mimic natural biological systems. For example, our sense of taste is based on an array of taste buds (natural sensors) that respond to substances. CSIRO's chemiresistor sensors are similar to taste buds, responding in different ways to different chemical stimuli.

An example of the power of this approach is the detection of melanoma cancers by sniffer dogs. Cancer cells produce a variety of metabolites that do not normally occur in healthy tissue. Sniffer dogs can be trained to detect the molecular fingerprint of these foreign (cancer) metabolites with their acute sense of smell.

We are developing sensor arrays that have a similar acute sense of taste to detect pollutants in water, or the metabolites in urine that can potentially be used to diagnose tuberculosis.

The results

Patented chemiresistor sensors

Schematic of a gold nanoparticle sensor array

Our patented chemiresistor sensors use thin films of gold nanoparticles that change resistance when an analyte – a target chemical of interest – is absorbed into the film.

Each gold nanoparticle sensor is functionalised with a different type of molecule, yielding an array of semi-selective sensors. The output of this sensor array reflects the chemical fingerprint of the sample and can be used for both detection and discrimination purposes.

These sensor arrays are ideally suited for analysis of complex mixtures of contaminants or metabolites.

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