A “Nose” Style Sensor Using DNA and Graphene

March Meeting 2010

A cartoon of a chemical sensor made from DNA and graphene


A22.00008 "DNA-decorated graphene chemical sensors"

Presented Monday, March 15, 2010

Brett Goldsmith
Ye Lu
A.T. Charlie Johnson

Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Nicholas Kybert
Department of Physics
University of Warwick
Coventry, United Kingdom

Robert Johnson
Institute for Computational Molecular Science
Temple University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A “Nose” Style Sensor Using DNA and Graphene

For several decades, scientists have tried to create an “electronic nose.” A sufficiently advanced device would be able to assist in medical diagnosis, explosives detection and environmental monitoring. Commercial attempts are ongoing, but researchers in basic science are still looking for better materials and techniques which may lead to greater success.

Nanotechnology has brought a whole new class of materials to work with, such as graphene (a single layer of graphite). What we have done is try to build a few demonstration sensors from graphene and DNA. Graphene brings excellent electronic properties and the potential for large-scale manufacturing. DNA has a very unusual use here.

Instead of a genetic code, we use DNA as a chemical sensitizer; it is the “snot” for our nose. DNA is chosen because it is stable, easy to get, cheap and most importantly, we can change its chemical properties by adjusting the bases which make up each strand. DNA has been used this way by a few chemical sensor researchers for several years, but this is the first time it has been combined with the relatively new material, graphene. Our initial results show that these sensors work fairly well at discriminating similar molecules. We’re hoping to continue this type of work with commercial partners.


Dan, Y. P.; Lu, Y.; Kybert, N. J.; Luo, Z. T.; Johnson, A. T. C.,
Intrinsic Response of Graphene Vapor Sensors. Nano Letters 2009, 9,
(4), 1472-1475.

Staii, C.; Chen, M.; Gelperin, A.; Johnson, A. T., DNA-decorated
carbon nanotubes for chemical sensing. Nano Letters 2005, 5, 1774 -

Lu, Y.; Goldsmith, B.R.; Kybert, N.J., Johnson, A.T.C., DNA-decorated
graphene chemical sensors. In Preparation

Usage Information

Robert Johnson created this image, and has given us permission to submit it for news and/or educational purposes. Reporters may freely use this image as long as they include the following credit: "Image courtesy of R. Johnson/Temple University".

For further information, contact:
Jason Bardi
(301) 209-3091