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Comment Automation & Control

Quantum clusters serve as ultra-sensitive detectors

By Paul Grad |

Detection of extremely small quantities of dangerous or hazardous substances is important in many areas, including national security, safety of public utilities and radiation prevention. Several analytical methods have been developed using structural, functional and electronic properties of nanomaterials. In particular, noble-metal quantum clusters (QCs), a family of nanomolecules exhibiting intense luminescence, are highly sensitive and selective for specific analytes. Anchoring such QCs on small particles (100 nm to a few micrometers in diameter) leads to surface-enhancement of their luminescence, and may create a new platform for ultrasensitive detection — especially when combined with the use of optical microscopy. Now researchers from the Dept. of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Madras (www.iitm.ac.in), led by professor Thalappil Pradeep, have developed a simple and reliable strategy for the selective detection of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and Hg2+ ions at the sub-zeptomole level (zmol; less than 10–21 moles) in solution. Their method involves anchoring silver clusters, which are comprised of 15 atoms and embedded in bovine serum albumin (BSA), onto silica-coated gold “mesoflowers” (MFs), denoted…
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