Measurement strategies based on the parallel sensing of many chemical components in a mixture have the potential to revolutionize the biological and analytical sciences. In the last quarter century, the chemical diversity of biological systems has been found to be much larger than previously expected, and there has been a substantial proliferation of synthetic chemical species that must be monitored as possible environmental contaminants. As a result of the increased chemical complexities of biological, medical, and environmental samples, a strong demand now exists for tools that can rapidly, sensitively, and accurately measure multiple components in chemical mixtures. Parallel advances in the synthesis of molecular receptors and the construction of exquisitively sensitive analytical devices now make such measurements possible.
Under the sposnorship of the Beckman Foundation, we have established the Center for the Design and Fabrication of Sensor Arrays (CDFSA), a facility in which the diverse skills and perspectives of natural science and engineering faculty at the University of Texas will be brought to bear on challenging issues relating to quantitative chemical characterization of complex biological and environmental mixtures. To target dissimilar analyte species, a variety of molecular receptors that utilize distinct chemical sensing strategies will be synthesized, and will be incorporated into microfabricated arrays of wells and planar chip structures. Interactions between analytes and molecular receptors will be signaled through modulation of optical signals that will in turn be monitored by inexpensive solid-state diode-array or video-camera technology, or when required, by extremely low-noise, charge-coupled device (CCD) arrays. The measurement devices will have the capability to assay many chemical species with high sensitivity in seconds, will be highly portable, and in many instances will yield highly specific information on chemical identities. Feasibility of each technological component in this proposal has now been demonstrated, and the CDFSA will play the critical role in making possible the coalescence of these powerful developments into a focused, concerted program.
Faculty involved in this program:
Links to current and prior work in this area: