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Tiny Bubbles: New Tool In Chemical Sensing?

Date:
July 10, 2003
Source:
National Institute Of Standards And Technology (NIST)
Summary:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) chemists reported in the June 24 online edition of Langmuir that a process called microboiling shows promise for quick, simple and inexpensive chemical sensing. The process involves the formation of tiny vapor bubbles on a 200-nanometer-thick film of precious metal immersed in water and heated rapidly.

As the old Hawaiian love song says, tiny bubbles really do make some people feel fine. Chemists, that is. But there is no wine involved this time, just water.

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National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) chemists reported in the June 24 online edition of Langmuir that a process called microboiling shows promise for quick, simple and inexpensive chemical sensing. The process involves the formation of tiny vapor bubbles on a 200-nanometer-thick film of precious metal immersed in water and heated rapidly. By coating the metal microheater with a single layer of water-repelling molecules, the scientists dramatically altered the microboiling behavior. Bubbles formed more obviously and at lower temperatures, and the water in immediate contact with the metal got much hotter.

"It's astounding to me that we changed one functional group on the surface of that microheater and saw a dramatic change in the boiling behavior," says Michael Tarlov, a co-author of the paper.

The finding means that changes in boiling behavior should be useful for detecting specific substances. The water surrounding a microheater designed to bond with DNA or proteins, for example, might boil at a different temperature if the target molecules were attached to the coating. A change can be measured in just 5 microseconds, much faster than typical lab techniques. NIST scientists have found that the technique can detect surfactants, such as those used in detergents, and are studying its use in microfluidic (or lab-on-a-chip) devices.

The research also has other potential spin-offs, such as the use of designer coatings to improve efficiency in boilers and heat exchangers and the use of microheaters to simplify chemical manufacturing.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute Of Standards And Technology (NIST). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Institute Of Standards And Technology (NIST). "Tiny Bubbles: New Tool In Chemical Sensing?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030710090551.htm>.
National Institute Of Standards And Technology (NIST). (2003, July 10). Tiny Bubbles: New Tool In Chemical Sensing?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030710090551.htm
National Institute Of Standards And Technology (NIST). "Tiny Bubbles: New Tool In Chemical Sensing?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/07/030710090551.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

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