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NASA devises biohazard detection technology

NASA said that its researchers have developed a nanotechnology-based biosensor that can detect trace amounts of specific bacteria, viruses and parasites.

This biosensor will be used to help prevent the spread of potentially deadly biohazards in water, food and other contaminated sources.

NASA's Ames Research Center licensed the biosensor technology to Early Warning Inc. in New York. Initially, the biosensor will be configured to detect the presence of common and rare strains of microorganisms associated with water-borne illnesses and fatalities. Early Warning expects to launch its water-testing products in late 2008.

“The biosensor makes use of ultra-sensitive carbon nanotubes which can detect biohazards at very low levels,” explained Meyya Meyyappan, chief scientist for exploration technology at Ames.

When biohazards are present, the biosensor generates an electrical signal, which is used to determine the presence and concentration levels of specific micro-organisms in the sample. “Because of their tiny size, millions of nanotubes can fit on a single biosensor chip.”

Early Warning company officials say food and beverage companies, water agencies, industrial plants, hospitals and airlines could use the biosensor to prevent outbreaks of illnesses caused by pathogens - without needing a laboratory or technicians. (Xinhua)