Princeton engineers create new bioweapon detecting sensor

Engineers from Princeton University have developed a new sensor capable of detecting a variety of substances, from hidden explosives to biological weapons to signs of cancer.

The sensor, believed to be the most sensitive of its kind, boosts faint signals that have been made by the scattering laser light from materials that have been placed on it. The substances can be identified by the color of light they reflect. The sample size can be very small - as small as one molecule - according to

The new technology is considered to be a sizeable advance in the decades-long attempt to use Raman scattering to identify materials. Raman scattering was a phenomena discovered in the 1920s by Indian physicist Chandrasekhara Raman, who found that light reflecting off of an object carried a signature of its molecular makeup.

"Raman scattering has enormous potential in biological and chemical sensing, and could have many applications in industry, medicine, the military and other fields," Stephen Y. Chou, head of the research team said, according to "But current Raman sensors are so weak that their use has been very limited outside of research. We've developed a way to significantly enhance the signal over the entire sensor and that could change the landscape of how Raman scattering can be used."

Chou and his colleagues presented their findings in a paper published in the journal Optics Express. The research was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Currently, scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are using a less sensitive chip to determine whether or not the Princeton team’s technology could be used for detecting chemicals, biological agents and explosives.