Next up in the Science Lecture Series: “Sniffing molecules with nanowires”

Jason Chung

A University of California at Irvine professor will present his latest research on synthesizing new electronic nanomaterials for use in chemical sensing at Saddleback College on March 23.

As part of Saddleback’s third annual Science Lecture Series, professor Reginald M. Penner from the department of chemistry at UC Irvine will deliver his “Sniffing Molecules with Nanowires” lecture from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Science and Math building, Room 313.

Penner will discuss the unique properties of electronic materials and their role in chemical sensing, with real-world applications such as detecting chemical vapors from explosives and drugs in airports, as well as thermoelectrics and optoelectrics. In addition, he will reveal new methods of synthesizing materials into wires on a nano-level to improve the effectiveness of current chemical sensing equipment.

A nanowire composed of electric materials detects chemicals in its surrounding environment through electric conduction. When an electric current is run through the wire, the presence of foreign chemical molecules will alter the flow by either facilitating or hindering it. Specific chemicals are identified by their degree of alteration, since each chemical has a specific number of electrons, according to, a website dedicated to providing simple explanations for nanotechnology concepts and applications.

Nanowires also have the advantage of resetting quickly, which allows sensors to be ready for a second use within minutes, versus the hours required by film sensors, according to, a web-based science, research and technology news service.

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