The optical chemical sensors and biosensors technology has reached a considerable degree of development and sophistication in recent years, which has contributed significantly to extend their applications to many different areas, being personal and collective security among them. In this way, these useful devices are already used not only in industrial, environmental and laboratory diagnostic environments, but begin to be implemented in transportation, food production, industrial environments and will come home soon. Current chemical sensors include optoelectronic devices that can recognize patterns of odors, gases or explosives, and can identify potentially harmful compounds borne in the air, water or food. Advanced chemical research promises significant improvements in sensitivity, selectivity, response time and reduced costs. All this is being made possible by the development of new elements of selective recognition, mechanisms for amplification of the analytical signal and, especially, applications of the nano and micro-technology in this field. Furthermore, the invasion of mobile telephony and its fusion with the information technology and computing, materialized today in the so-called “smart” terminals (smartphones), predict how will the (bio)chemical sensors of the future become, looking after our domestic and workplace security, our health and the environment around us. In this project, several basic aspects that seek to increase the sensitivity and applicability of optical sensors in the field of safety and food quality, and personal protection are addressed. In particular, we will tackle key elements to achieving optical sensors and biosensors for the sought applications:
- obtaining new molecular recognition elements that mimic the behavior of their natural analogues (antibodies) but overcome their limitations (fragility, cost, versatility…);
- significantly amplifying detection of the interaction events resulting from selective recognition, to yield sensitivity (detection limit) that only mass spectrometry coupled to chromatography currently achieves;
- preparing microarrays of optical sensors for simultaneous multiplexed analysis of more than one species;
- seeking new photochemical mechanisms of signal transduction facilitated by the use of nanoparticles;
- manufacturing organic-inorganic hybrid micro/nano sensors that enable miniaturization of the sensitive terminal, shortening the response time to the analyte, significantly increasing its sensitivity and be seamless integrateable in even more multifunctional “smart”phones.