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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks


Raman Effect can fingerprint the universe

This week's Swaminomics column in the Sunday Times of India, based on an article in The Atlantic Magazine explains how India's Noble prize winning scientist C.V. Raman's discovery has finally become a breakthrough technology.
Handheld scanners called Raman scanners, weighing just one-third of a kilo, are being used by US narcotics squads and airports to detect drugs.

The scanners work by detecting the molecular structure of the object they are scanning. If you shoot a beam of light on an object, a very small part of it interacts with the atoms of the object and scatters light in a pattern or spectrum unique to that particular molecule.This is the Raman Effect. It is difficult to detect, and typically needs lasers to amplify the signal. Every molecule has a different Raman pattern. This is why Raman scanning has been called the fingerprinting of the universe: it can identify substances as surely as fingerprints can identify humans.

Scanners have a laser, spectroscope and an electronic heart that can recognize Raman patterns. This yields almost instant recognition of target substances.

Scientists aim ultimately to create a database of Raman patterns of every substance for easy identification.

The Atlantic reports other mash-ups of the Raman Effect -
The potential medical applications of Raman technology are perhaps the most exciting. Researchers at Stanford University are experimenting with it as a non-invasive tool to diagnose breast, lung, and other cancers. River Diagnostics, in Rotterdam, is marketing a bacteria-strain analyzer to identify pathogens in real time and combat hospital-acquired infections. Diabetics may someday be able to monitor their glucose without poking themselves to get a drop of blood. Allergy sufferers may be able to instantly detect which pesky pollens are in the air and respond accordingly.

I found it interesting that I read this article by my favorite Indian columnist who probably first read it in an American magazine that carried this feature about an Indian scientist's path-breaking discovery that is finding application outside India scores of years after he first observed it. Goes to show how geographies are irrelevant for ideas & why good ideas should keep flowing.

The funny cover of The Atlantic that features the Raman article

Also see:
Accidental Discoveries
Geniuses
.120

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