Blue crabs have a substance used in nanosensorsJune 24, 2009
A substance found in crab shells is the key component in a nanoscale sensor system developed by researchers at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering. The sensor can detect minute quantities of explosives, bioagents, chemicals, and other dangerous materials in air and water, potentially leading to security and safety innovations for airports, hospitals, and other public locations.
Clark School engineers are using a substance called chitosan (pronounced “kite-o-san”), found in the shells of the Chesapeake Bay’s famous blue crab, to coat components of the microscopic sensor system.
Crab lovers can hold on to their mallets — crabs do not need to be harvested specifically for this purpose. The material is extracted from the crab shell waste.
Reza Ghodssi, associate professor in the Clark School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the university’s Institute for Systems Research (ISR), and a member of the Maryland NanoCenter , is one of the investigators leading the project. He is joined by a multidisciplinary group: Gary Rubloff from ISR and the NanoCenter, Bill Bentley from the Fischell Department of Bioengineering and Greg Payne from the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI).
“Chitosan is interesting because it’s a biological compound that can interact with a wide variety of substances, and also work well in a complex, sensitive device,” Ghodssi says.