Like most websites The Analytical Scientist uses cookies. In order to deliver a personalized, responsive service and to improve the site, we remember and store information about how you use it. Learn more.
Subscribe to Newsletter
Fields & Applications Sensors, Forensics

Toy Story

LEGO claims: “You can build anything.” And now, an international team from the US and China are testing that motto to the limit. The researchers have housed a sensor in a box made of the toy bricks, in an attempt to create an improved (and portable) nerve agent detector.

Nerve agents are very much on the map since the Novichok ‘outbreak’ in Wiltshire, UK. The fact they are highly toxic, yet odorless and colorless, makes them a particularly formidable foe – requiring sensitive instrumentation to detect. Current detection methods, such as UV/Vis-, fluorescence spectroscopy or circular dichroism spectropolarimetry, tend to be costly and difficult to transport.

This detector’s modest exterior belies the sophistication within; by combining a smartphone, digital photography and fluoride/thiol self-propagating protocols for fluorometric signal amplification, the researchers were able to determine analytes at levels comparable with more traditional techniques. Both easy to construct and to reconfigure, the LEGO exterior can also be dismantled for easy transportation – and costs a lot less than a 3D printed device. Just don’t step on it with bare feet…

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Analytical Scientist and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. X Sun et al., “Photography coupled with self-propagating chemical cascades: differentiation and quantitation of G- and V-nerve agent mimics via chromaticity”, ACS Cent Sci, [epub ahead of print] (2018).
About the Author
Joanna Cummings

A former library manager and storyteller, I have wanted to write for magazines since I was six years old, when I used to make my own out of foolscap paper and sellotape and distribute them to my family. Since getting my MSc in Publishing, I’ve worked as a freelance writer and content creator for both digital and print, writing on subjects such as fashion, food, tourism, photography – and the history of Roman toilets. Now I can be found working on The Analytical Scientist, finding the ‘human angle’ to cutting-edge science stories.

Register to The Analytical Scientist

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Analytical Scientist magazine