Additional Participants

Graduate Student

Lester French
Yihe Hu
Erik McCarthy
Mike Meissner
Wade Pinkham
Chris York
Jesse Parks
Bennett Meulendyk
Jason McGann
Shane Winters
Donald McCann
Christopher Sgmabato
Walter Duy
Christian Peters

Undergraduate Student

Kristen Redecsky
Jeremy Sells
Benjamin Rioux
Melinda Conroy
Jonathan Evans
James Hillegass
Matthew Jones
Berc Kalanyan
Michael Fecteau
David Hunter
Craig Harrison
Eulan Patterson
Trevor Davis
Gabriel Collier
Ernest Jones

Project Period

September 15, 2003-June 30, 2009

Level of Access

Open-Access Report

Grant Number


Submission Date



Sensors for the sensitive and selective detection of chemical agents and a biological agent are being developed. The sensor structure consists of a piezoelectric platform that is coated with a film that selectively sorbs a chemical or biological agent of interest. The sensitivity of the sensor is embodied in the sensor platform, which consists of a quartz crystal that is excited by a lateral electric field. The exciting electrodes are placed opposite to the sensing surface, and the sensing film is attached directly to the sensor platform. This arrangement is in contrast to the standard quartz microbalance (QCM), where the sensing surface is normally coated with a gold film, and it offers increased sensitivity along with selectivity. The high sensitivity exhibited by this novel lateral-field-excited (LFE) QCM is attributed to the fact that the sensor can measure both electrical and mechanical property changes in the sensing film caused by the sorbed chemical or biological agent. The selectivity of the LFE-QCM sensor is obtained by performing molecular filtering directly in the sensing film. In this specific project the LFE-QCM sensor is being designed to detect two specific chemicals and one biological agent. The target chemicals are dimethyl phosponate (DMMP), which simulates VX and G nerve agents, and an organophosphate pesticide that is chemically similar to many other chemical-warfare agents. The biological agent is E. coli O157:H7, which could appear in food or water supplies. In order to realize the desired chemical and biological sensors, the research team is exploring several issues relating to the LFE-QCM platform and the sensing film. These issues include the optimum electrode geometry in the LFE-QCM platform, the development of novel polymer and silica films for the detection of organophosphates in water, and the coupling of E. coli antibodies to the sensing surface.

Homeland security as well as environmental and industrial health concerns dictate that improved chemical and biological sensors must be developed and deployed. After various sorbate-selective films have been attached to the LFE-QCM surface, they will be exposed to the chemical simulants and the biological agent in order to determine the sensing properties. It is anticipated that the proposed work on these organo-phosphorus chemicals and E. coli can be extended to development of selective sensors for other significant chemical and biological agents. In addition, by coupling with existing GK-12 and REU programs, this project will contribute to the education of a number of students and teachers who will participate in the research program.

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