Russian scientists arrive at revolutionary sensors capable of detecting carcinogenic foods

The ultrasensitive control methods that the Russian-European scientific community is currently striving for are crucially important in a plethora of spheres of human life – from biomedicine seeking unique ways to diagnose cancer at early stages, to food production and more thorough environmental control.

Specialists at the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, as well as the Shemyakin and Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with France’s Aix-Marseille University and Britain’s University of Manchester, have proposed a concept of hypersensitive sensory transducers (“Fourier-nano-transducers”) that may drastically revolutionise ultrasensitive control in biomedicine and a whole range of other spheres.

The results of the research are reflected in a fresh publication in the scientific journal “Advanced Functional Materials”(link is external).

Fourier-nano-transducers are monolayer architectures of gold nanoparticles, which are arranged on the surface as nano-periodic structures in such a way that their illumination leads to a plasmon disturbance (electromagnetically-bound collective resonances of free radicals) in the metal system.

These transducers are unique in the way that they are capable of concentrating the electric field of a light wave in a super-thin layer and thus obtain information about its optic properties before further transmitting it (in reflected or diffracted light rays) in the form of specially coded correlations, or ratios between light wave phases, Dr Andrei Kabashin, scientific director of the Institute of Engineering Physics for Biomedicine at the MEPhI National Research Nuclear University, explained at length.

“Such a way of light wave field concentration, coding, and phase information transition helps arrive at the unprecedented sensitivity of a whole system to changes in the optical properties of super-thin layers, including atomic layers of 2D-materials and molecular layers of biomaterials on the surface of biosensors”, the researcher noted.

According to Dr Andrei Kabashin, the hypersensitivity of the proposed nano-transducers is well seen in the registered ferroelectric effect from the atomic layer of molybdenum diselenide (MoS₂, alternative to the famed graphene). The scientists refer to the fact that such a minute effect was registered from the atomic layer as unprecedented and ushering in a whole new era for 2D material research.

Another example of such hypersensitivity is the brand-new methodology to detect the antibiotic chloramphenicol, widely used in the medicine and food industries.

It is vital to keep full control over its concentration in foods, as its exceedance was found to lead to oncological diseases and cardio dysfunctions.

The research has demonstrated that Fourier-nano-transformers boost the chances of detecting the antibiotic a thousand fold as compared with other approaches. They are predicted to prove effective in a wealth of spheres – for instance, when it comes to early diagnoses of dangerous illnesses, as well as ultrasensitive doping control, monitoring the quality of food and environmental conditions.

In a parallel study, the aforementioned research group, together with Russian scientists from the Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, came up with a unique way of using silicon nanoparticles for cancer diagnostics. As Dr Kabashin explained, due to nanoparticles boasting a powerful “nonlinear response under optical excitation”, scientists may soon find it possible to “reconsider the problem of bio-imaging for one of the most promising nanomaterials”.