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Nanocrystal Liquid Identification
By: Katie Anderson (Schaefer), Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: October 5, 2011, from the October 2011 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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Interference plays a part in the third category. The device can be used to identify liquids such as those in oil tanker spills, lab spills or any kind of unknown liquid. Burgess has had requests for this application from the auto industry to identify hazardous liquids quickly; however, it is easier to identify the liquid when the opal is coded for a finite number of liquids. Without knowing the specific liquids sought, interference would become an issue. Currently, Burgess is working to test liquors for methanol, which has a different surface tension than ethanol. His team is also working on exploiting the wettability to surface tension to get around the interference.
Although the opal can be customized for a finite number of liquids, if given an infinite array of possible materials, Burgess can get a rough idea of those materials based on their surface tension. This could help those in an R&D lab identify liquid materials or potentially identify the liquid materials in a benchmark product. Burgess notes, however, that the inverse opal would not separate miscible liquids.
Burgess currently is working to differentiate chemical sensing from surface tension sensing, which he notes can be done because it is a wettability threshold and not a surface tension threshold.