A Nanoelectronic Sensor Which Can Save Lives

By Roland Piquepaille

Researchers at Nanomix, a 20-person Californian company, have developed a nanoelectronic sensor which combines carbon nanotubes, carbon dioxide-detecting polymers and silicon to become a human breathing monitor. The device can determine carbon dioxide concentrations in exhaled air, according to "Monitoring Life, One Breath At A Time," a news release from the National Science Foundation. It could be used as early as 2005 to monitor patients' breathing during surgery. Even more importantly, it will be used in the field for emergency care by helping to verify proper breathing tube placement or to provide feedback about adequacy of ventilation. Read more...

Here is the introduction of the NSF news release.

Researchers have created a tiny device that can monitor a victim's breathing in emergency situations by effectively shrinking an operating room machine into a small, disposable tool that can be carried to a disaster site.
NSF-supported researchers at Nanomix, Inc., in Emeryville, Calif., have created a transistor that fuses carbon nanotubes, polymers and silicon into a capnography sensor -- a human breathing monitor.

What will the uses for such a nanoelectronic sensor?

Capnography sensors detect subtle changes in the concentration of carbon dioxide gas in a person's breath, revealing respiratory diseases in children and adults, and allowing anesthesiologists to monitor a patient's breathing during surgery.
In the field, emergency responders may be able to use the new sensor to verify proper breathing tube placement, monitor the patient's respiratory patterns and assess the effect of life support measures.
The carbon nanotube network device from Nanomix This illustration shows the carbon nanotube network device coated with poly(ethylene imine) and starch polymer layer for detection of CO2 gas (Credit: Alexander Star, Nanomix).

Here is a link to a larger version of this illustration. You also can visit this photo gallery at Nanomix.

The research work will appear as the cover article of the November 15, 2004 issue of Advanced Materials under the title "Nanoelectronic Carbon Dioxide Sensors." Here is a link to the abstract.

And for more information, you also can check the site of one of the co-authors of the paper, George Grüner, professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) -- and also Chief Scientist at Nanomix. Here is a link to G. Gruner Nano-Biophysics Group at UCLA.

Finally, I was curious to know how such a small company was able to be pick such a simple and valuable domain name, nano.com. I found the information with the help of Allwhois. Nanomix registered this domain name more than seven years ago, on June 8, 1997 to be precise.

Sources: National Science Foundation news release, November 10, 2004; and various websites

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