DARPA Awards $4.3 Million To Develop Biological, Chemical Threat Detector

A new class of sensors able to detect multiple biological and chemical threats simultaneously with unprecedented performance may soon be within reach thanks to the establishment of a multi-million dollar research center led by Georgia Institute of Technology engineers.

Biological and chemical sensing are active research areas because of their applications in clinical screening, drug discovery, food safety, environmental monitoring and homeland security. Using integrated photonics, the new class of sensors will be capable of detecting chemical agents -- such as toxins, pollutants and trace gases -- and biological agents -- such as proteins, viruses and antibodies -- simultaneously on the same chip.

“The proposed sensors will detect multiple biological and chemical threats on a compact integrated platform faster, less expensively and more sensitively than the current state-of-the-art sensors,” said the center’s leader Ali Adibi, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is funding the two-year $4.3 million center as one of its Centers in Integrated Photonics Engineering Research (CIPhER), which investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices or systems. For its center, Georgia Tech is working with researchers from Emory University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of California, Santa Cruz; and Yale University. The team also includes industry collaborators Rockwell Collins, Kotura, Santur Corporation and NanoRods.

To create an integrated chip that will simultaneously detect multiple biological and chemical agents, the researchers need to achieve three major goals:

Design and fabricate photonic and optomechanical structures to sense differences in a sample’s refractive index, Raman emission, fluorescence, absorption and mass.

Functionalize the sensor surface with coatings that chemical and biological agents will attach to and create differences that can be detected.

Develop the sample preparation method and microfluidic sample delivery device, and connect the device to the coated photonic structure.

Adibi is leading the first thrust, which is primarily focused on fabricating the millimeter-square sensing structures and on-chip spectrometers that will enable multiplexing -- the detection of multiple agents using the same sensing modules.

The sensors will detect changes in the refractive index, Raman emission, fluorescence, absorption spectra and optomechanical properties when a sample that includes specific biological or chemical particles interacts with the sensor coatings. Combining information obtained from the five different sensing modalities will maximize the sensor specificity and minimize its false detection rate, the researchers say.

“The goal is to achieve very high sensitivity for each modality and investigate the advantages of each modality for different classes of biological and chemical agents in order to develop a clear set of guidelines for combining different modalities to achieve the desired performance for a specific set of agents,” explained Adibi.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemistry professor Timothy Swager is leading the second part of this project, which aims to design surface coatings that will achieve maximum sensor specificity in detecting multiple biological and chemical agents.

“We plan to develop glycan-based surface coatings to sense biological agents and polymer-based surface coatings to sense chemical agents,” noted Adibi.

For the third thrust, which is being led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology electrical engineering associate professor Jongyoon Han, the researchers will develop optimal sample preparation and delivery techniques. Their goal is to maximize the biological or chemical particle concentration in the sample and limit detection time to minutes.

“In two years, we hope to have a lab-on-a-chip system that includes all of the sensing modalities with appropriate coatings and microfluidic delivery,” said Adibi. “To show the feasibility of the technology, we plan to demonstrate the high sensitivity and high selectivity of each sensor individually and be able to use at least two of the sensing modalities simultaneously to detect two or three different chemical or biological agents.”

In addition to those already mentioned, this center also includes Georgia Tech chemistry and biochemistry professor Mostafa El-Sayed, Georgia Tech materials science and engineering professor Kenneth Sandhage, Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Research Center senior research scientist David Gottfried, Emory University biochemistry chair Richard Cummings, University of California Santa Cruz electrical engineering professor Holger Schmidt, and Yale University electrical engineering associate professor Hong Tang.

Featured

  • Survey: Less Than Half of IT Leaders are Confident in their IoT Security Plans

    Viakoo recently released findings from its 2024 IoT Security Crisis: By the Numbers. The survey uncovers insights from IT and security executives, exposes a dramatic surge in enterprise IoT security risks, and highlights a critical missing piece in the IoT security technology stack. The clarion call is clear: IT leaders urgently need to secure their IoT infrastructure one application at a time in an automated and expeditious fashion. Read Now

  • ASIS International and SIA Release “Complexities in the Global Security Market: 2024 Through 2026”

    ASIS International and the Security Industry Association (SIA) – the leading security associations for the security industry – have released ”Complexities in the Global Security Market: 2024 Through 2026”, a new research report that provides insights into the equipment, technologies, and employment of the global security industry, including regional market breakouts. SIA and ASIS partnered with global analytics and advisory firm Omdia to complete the research. Read Now

  • President Biden Issues Executive Order to Bolster U.S Port Cybersecurity

    On Wednesday, President Biden issued an Executive Order to bolster the security of the nation’s ports, alongside a series of additional actions that will strengthen maritime cybersecurity and more Read Now

  • Report: 15 Percent of All Emails Sent in 2023 Were Malicious

    VIPRE Security Group recently released its report titled “Email Security in 2024: An Expert Look at Email-Based Threats”. The 2024 predictions for email security in this report are based on an analysis of over 7 billion emails processed by VIPRE worldwide during 2023. This equates to almost one email for everyone on the planet. Of those, roughly 1 billion (or 15%) were malicious. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Whitepapers

New Products

  • 4K Video Decoder

    3xLOGIC’s VH-DECODER-4K is perfect for use in organizations of all sizes in diverse vertical sectors such as retail, leisure and hospitality, education and commercial premises. 3

  • A8V MIND

    A8V MIND

    Hexagon’s Geosystems presents a portable version of its Accur8vision detection system. A rugged all-in-one solution, the A8V MIND (Mobile Intrusion Detection) is designed to provide flexible protection of critical outdoor infrastructure and objects. Hexagon’s Accur8vision is a volumetric detection system that employs LiDAR technology to safeguard entire areas. Whenever it detects movement in a specified zone, it automatically differentiates a threat from a nonthreat, and immediately notifies security staff if necessary. Person detection is carried out within a radius of 80 meters from this device. Connected remotely via a portable computer device, it enables remote surveillance and does not depend on security staff patrolling the area. 3

  • Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation.

    Connect ONE®

    Connect ONE’s powerful cloud-hosted management platform provides the means to tailor lockdowns and emergency mass notifications throughout a facility – while simultaneously alerting occupants to hazards or next steps, like evacuation. 3