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Hossam Haick:Sniffing out Cancer PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 11 August 2009 17:20

Hossam Haick, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering, has created an electronic "nose" that can diagnose cancer in just two or three minutes by analyzing a patient's breath.

When a cancerous tumor develops in the body, its cells produce various chemicals that appear in the urine and blood. These biomarkers cross from the blood into the lungs, where they are exhaled in minuscule amounts. Haick's device detects cancer by "sniffing out" those telltale molecules; the current version can even distinguish between lung, breast, and colon cancer. He has begun testing the nose in collaboration with the oncology division of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The finished device should be portable and inexpensive, providing a faster, easier, and more sensitive way to screen for tumors. Such screening should help doctors detect cancer early, when it's most treatable. Haick hopes the nose will eventually be as small as a cell phone and sophisticated enough to pinpoint a tumor's location.

 Research Topics

Artificial Olfactory Systems (Electronic Noses)
Artificial olfactory systems, or, as often called, “electronic noses”, perform odor detection through use of an array of broadly cross-reactive sensors in conjunction with pattern recognition methods. This allows to considerably widen variety of compounds to which a given matrix is sensitive, to increase the degree of component identification and, in specific cases, to perform analysis of individual components in complex multi-component (bio) chemical media. The focus of our this research is to develop and study a “new generation” of electronic noses that are more sensitive, more controlled compositionally, and more tailored to differentiating between subtle (sub-ppb) differences in mixtures of low concentration of vapors, than the ones used in the current technology. Specifically, the focus of our research is to: develop and study sensor arrays made of nanomaterials, such as semiconducting nanowires, carbon nanotubes, metallic and semiconducting nanoparticles, and discotic organic molecules; develop a fundamental understanding of the chemical, physical, and electrical properties of such nanomaterials and the signal transduction mechanism of the various classes of sensors; develop and study “e-nose on chip”; and investigate the use of the developed devices in selected application areas, such as in environmental-monitoring, food industry, homeland security, and in targeting the early diagnosis, detection and screening of disease.
Understanding Electron Transport Through Hybrid Junction
The use of molecules to modify and tailor material properties is attractive in (opto)electronic devices because of the molecules’ functional variety and flexibility. In hybrid devices, molecular functionality serves to influence and control characteristics of electronic devices. This approach to molecular electronics has the potential advantage over others in its links with existing know-how, providing high “added value”. The overriding design principle of this portion of our research is to study how organic molecules and interaction with metallic and/or semiconducting electrode(s) affect electronic transport through metal/molecule/semiconductor hybrid structures, both in cases where current passes predominantly through the molecules and where this is not so, viz. electrostatic effect. Within this frame we aim to understand possibilities and limitations of device structures where current affected by the presence of molecules, optimizing molecules and molecule/electrode design for molecule-controlled devices, developing externally controllable, molecule-based (opto)electronic devices, which may, ultimately, be important for smart systems.
Electrical Contacts to Organic Molecules
Several developments over the last decades have helped to fuel the expectations that organic molecules may become active components in future electronics. However, difficulties in connecting the organic molecules to the macroscopic world still hinder reliable and reproducible study and technological realization of such devices, also because contacting can damage the molecules or the substrate, on which the molecules adsorbed. The focus of this part of our research is to find ways to contact the molecules reproducibly, so as to be able to perform systematic studies, and technologically, so as to be sure that the method is not limited to laboratory applications and/or rather specific types of molecules. Among other themes we challenge in our research, we mention: understanding the interaction between the contact and the different parts of the molecules and how details of contacting affect the resulting molecule-based device characteristics, increasing the contact efficiency of the deposited metals, and determining the most appropriate metal for contacting the organic molecules gently.
Tuning the Electronic Properties of Nanowires with Surface Modification
The ability to manipulate the (photo) conductivity of nanowires (NWs) through chemical surface modification is important for the realization of NW-based electronics. Oxide-coated semiconducting NWs have been functionalized with a variety of molecules to impart improved device applications. However, oxide-coating of a semiconducting NW is thought to lower the response and, ultimately, limit the performance of the semiconducting NW-based devices. The overriding design principle of this portion of our research is to develop approaches for modifying semiconducting nanowires with no intervening oxide, and, consequently, to fine-tune the (photo) conductivity of semiconducting NWs and NW-based devices through surface modification with a variety of functional groups. Of great interest is to develop an understanding of the effect of chemical modifications on the NWs’ electrical properties, attempt to develop and extend such approaches to a wide variety of technologically important NWs, and to allow exploration into the charge transport behavior of more complex structures.


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