Principles for Measurement of Chemical Exposure Based on Recognition-Driven Anchoring Transitions in Liquid Crystals

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Science  17 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5533, pp. 1296-1299
DOI: 10.1126/science.1062293

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The competitive binding of a molecule forming a liquid crystal and a targeted analyte to a common molecular receptor presented at a solid surface possessing nanometer-scale topography is used to trigger an easily visualized surface-driven change in the orientation of a micrometer-thick film of liquid crystal. Diffusion of the targeted analyte from atmosphere to surface-immobilized receptor across the micrometer-thick film of liquid crystal is fast (on the order of seconds), and the competitive interaction of the targeted analyte and liquid crystal with the receptor provides a high level of tolerance to nontargeted species (water, ethanol, acetone, and hexanes). Systems that provide parts-per-billion (by volume) sensitivity to either organoamine or organophosphorus compounds are demonstrated, and their use for imaging of spatial gradients in concentration is reported. This approach does not require complex instrumentation and could provide the basis of wearable personalized sensors for measurement of real-time and cumulative exposure to environmental agents.

  • * Present address: 3M Center, 3M Corporation, St. Paul, MN 55144, USA.

  • To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: abbott{at}

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