A gas detector inspired by the signals received by living cells was designed by a research group at the University of Tokyo. The detector is based on a cube, defined as a nanocube, the size of one-fortieth of a human red blood cell, with only two nanometers for each side. This nanocube can shine if it detects LPG gas.
The team has been working on this project for more than ten years, during which time researchers have tried to mimic the ways in which proteins and DNA unite in living cells. “People automatically think of devices when we talk about sensors. But there are many examples of natural sensors in the body,” explains one of the researchers involved in the project, Shuichi Hiraoka, head of the Department of Science at the Japanese university.
A cell, in order to detect the signals, usually operates in three phases: in the first, a receptor detects the target molecule, in the second a detector sends a signal and in the third, the detector sends the signal to another place in the cell.
The nanocube simplifies this system because it is both the receptor and the restorer. By doing this, as Hiraoka himself indicates, one can avoid the problem of transferring information from the receiver to the receiver. In nanocubes, they glow blue with ultraviolet light when they are filled with LPG.
These sensors can wrap the molecules they contain and can detect even very small amounts of LPG gas. They are very specific to this type of gas, something that other traditional gas detectors cannot afford. Currently, researchers are working on detecting different gases on the device.