New sensor spots rare metals used in smartphones

Researchers have developed a new protein-based sensor that can detect lanthanides, the rare earth metals used in smartphones and other technologies, in a more efficient and cost-effective way.

The sensor changes its fluorescence when it binds to these metals, according to the study published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The protein undergoes a shape change when it binds to lanthanides, which is key for the sensor’s fluorescence to “turn on”, said the study.

To develop the sensor, the researchers from Pennsylvania State University in the US used a protein they recently described and subsequently used to explore the biology of bacteria that use lanthanides.

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