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Smartphone-sized Cancer Detection Device Engineered By University of Michigan Researchers

A research team comprising chemical engineers from the University of Michigan has developed a nanocomposite, which is a thin film structure that exhibits circular polarization of light. According to the team, the structure will help to design a system that can easily monitor cancer patients. The research was recorded in the Nature Materials journal.

Circularly polarized light is used for the early detection of cancerous cells. Previously, achieving polarimetric imaging for effective Cancer diagnosis was hard and costly. The new technique combined reversible modulation of chirality and polarization rotation, in a much more cost effective manner. Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering, explained that the resultant material can be modified in such a way so that patients can use it as a contemporary wearable technology, which is more efficient compared to traditional methods.

self_assembly_AuNPs
Nano scale self assembly of Gold nanoparticle (Credit: Kotov Lab)

The working principle of Circular Polarizers (CPs) are similar to Linear Polarizers (LPs), used in sunglasses. However, unlike 2D polarization in LPs, CPs polarize the light into a three-dimensional helical shape that can spin in either a clockwise or counter clockwise direction. The thin film material was outlined by plasmonic nanocolloids, depositing it layer by layer and ultimately forming a nano-stack. The team used Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), as the base structure due to its light polarization property and self-organized “S” structure. The nanocomposite detects cancer by labelling biomarkers, bits of protein and snippets of DNA which are present from the earliest stages of Cancer.

Team leader Kotov, claimed that the film was light, flexible and easy to manufacture, and that the technology could not only revolutionize medical science, but also extraordinarily upgrade communication systems and photography technology.

Circular_polarization
Animation of Circular Polarization
Though the research looks lucrative, it is still at its infancy and a market launch could take years to materialize. Nevertheless, the research is definitely an important milestone in the quest for easy and accessible treatment for life threatening diseases. The study titled, "Reconfigurable chiroptical nanocomposites with chirality transfer from the macro- to the nanoscale," was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defence. You can check the photo assembly of the research product here: ChE Kotov - Light Polarizing Film.

Source: Nature Materials | Michigan News

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