ANU researchers create handheld chemical scanner inspired by the Sonic Screwdriver of Dr Who

Handheld devices that instantly perform chemical analysis of a subject are common and handy tools in science fiction. The Tricoder from Star Trek is used to analyse novel life forms and the Sonic Screwdriver from Dr Who has the capability to scan and identify matter, among other functions. Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) are bridging the gap between science fiction and reality, by creating a device inspired by these fanciful devices from speculative fiction.

Marcus Doherty and Michael Barson_web image

Dr Marcus Doherty and PHD student Michael Barson. Image: ANU/Stuart Hay.

The handheld devices uses mass spectrometry and MRI to perform instant chemical analysis of a subject. A team lead by Dr Marcus Doherty had proved the concept of a diamond-based quantum handheld device, and are now in the process of realising a prototype of such an instrument. Dr Doherty says "Laboratories and hospitals will have the power to do full chemical analyses to solve complex problems with our device that they can afford and move around easily. This device is going to enable many people to use powerful instruments like molecular MRI machines and mass spectrometers much more readily"

The device uses techniques borrowed from gravitational wave detectors and atomic clocks to measure the mass and chemical compositions of subjects by using tiny imperfections on a diamond. Mostly envisioned as a handy tool for medical workers, the device could potentially also be used for biosecurity research and environmental applications. The research has been published in Nano Letters.

Published Date: Mar 08, 2017 01:27 pm | Updated Date: Mar 08, 2017 01:27 pm