Tracing potentially dangerous gases or liquids using a ‘lab-on-a-chip’ system, mounted on a robot that enters a room before people do. Innovative technology in defence against chemical threats: that is the aim of a new European Union Horizon 2020 project called SERSing. Within this project, researchers of the MESA+ Institute of the University of Twente will develop integrated photonics building blocks and specially prepared surfaces to enhance the sensitivity of the system.
SERS stands for ‘sensing’, ‘evaluating’, ‘responding’ and ‘securing’. It is also the abbreviation of the technology used: Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering. Thanks to Raman scattering, it is possible to analyze the composition of chemical substances. The ‘surface enhanced’ version (SERS) adds accuracy thanks to a specially prepared surface. But the partners in the project would like to go beyond detecting: the actual danger should be evaluated, for an advice on the measures to be taken. The idea is to create a hand-held device that can do all this, to be used by the first responders on a suspect location. It could also be mounted on a robot that does the first checks before humans enter the scene.
MESA+ has ideal infrastructure
The core of the device will be a lab-on-a-chip system with fluid handling and photonic systems, as well as geo-location and communication technology. UT’s MESA+ Institute is specialized in several of the technologies to be used, like integrated lasers and other photonics devices, fluid handling and micro- and nano-engineered surfaces. The UT team within SERSing consists of Sonia García Blanco (Optical Sciences), Niels Tas, Erwin Berenschot, Lucas Kooijman and Arturo Surrarey Arce (Mesoscale Chemical Systems) and Roald Tiggelaar (MESA+ NanoLab staff).
Partners in SERsing are, next to the University of Twente in The Netherlands: Technical University of Denmark (DTU), University of Zaragoza (Spain), University of Vigo (Spain). Hightech companies involved Silmeco ApS (Denmark) and Serstech AB (Sweden). Stakeholders are the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) and the National Institute for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Protection (SUJCHBO, Czech Republic). SERSing is coordinated by Thomas Rindzevicius (Silmeco), it is a 4.5-year project with a budget of 4.7 million euro.