A smaller system makes on-the-spot detection easier and cheaper
As the role of pesticides in the decline of pollinator populations and their potential effect on health becomes clearer, it is increasingly important to be able to detect them in the environment and on foods.
Usually the equipment used to detect pesticides and other chemicals is large, expensive and slow, making on-the-spot detection challenging.
The new study, by researchers at Hefei University of Technology in China and the National University of Singapore, presents a portable smartphone-based detection system using a paper sensor that produces strong signals that can detect the pesticide thiram.
“Since detectors are usually big, it was important that we could develop a smaller unit that was powerful enough to detect small concentrations of the pesticide,” said Prof. Qingsong Mei, one of the authors of the study from Hefei University of Technology in China.
To make the detector, the researchers had to develop three components: nanoparticles to detect the pesticide and emit a fluorescent signal on the paper, a 3D-printed piece of equipment made of a smartphone attached to a mini-laser, an optical filter and a mini-cavity, and a piece of software that runs on Android.
A sample is then put on the paper, and pesticide molecules attach to the copper ions on the nanoparticles.
The fluorescent light differs according to the amount of pesticide present in the sample, so the software can translate that signal into a concentration of pesticide.
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