Notre Dame physicists are working on a laser transmission spectroscopy tool that will be able to detect the presence of nanoparticles in suspension, as well as determine the type and number of the nanoparticles. The tool can detect particles so tiny and diffuse that they cannot be seen with any existing technology, and it extends to a range many orders of magnitude below what has previously been achieved. No technology in existence can provide the size and shape of such things as viruses in suspension, making the tool truly groundbreaking in its performance.
Researchers Steven Ruggiero and Carol Tanner say that practical applications for this “platform” technology, which they plan to market through a company they’ve dubbed LightSprite, include the analysis of water for safety and purity; the detection of nanoparticles in the environment; medical diagnostics involving the detection of bacteria and viruses; the detection of species-specific DNA; and high-resolution spatial information for pharmaceutical research. A number of basic researchers, nanoparticle analysis companies and scientists in pharma have expressed serious interest in the technology.
“Our goal is to provide an instrument that is portable, sensitive, fast, reliable and easy to commercialize,” Ruggiero says. “Among other benefits, the presence of this technology would allow for the crafting of tighter environmental policies. Such policies become enforceable when it can be proven that the technology exists to perform reliable and accurate tests.”
A high-performance portable prototype of the instrument has just been completed by Rose-Hulman Ventures and will be the basis of a commercializable product, as well as the embodiment of the intellectual property secured by a pending patent.
“Imagine going to the doctor’s office and having him or her be able to tell you the type of bacterium or virus you have,” Tanner says. “You can begin treatment right away, and it’s going to be the right one.”
[This piece was excerpted from the web site http://www.southbendon.com/pages/Turning-inspiration-into-reality.cfm.]