Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

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Presentation Discussion

  • Icon for: Samantha Stout

    Samantha Stout

    May 22, 2012 | 04:14 a.m.

    Very cool research! The video was a great explanation for audiences at any level. Best of luck!

  • Icon for: Jennifer Novotney

    Jennifer Novotney

    May 23, 2012 | 07:59 a.m.

    Thanks Samantha!

  • May 22, 2012 | 01:38 p.m.

    You did a really good job explaining your research to a general audience – very interesting!. How scalable is the polymerization method (and how easy is it to grow the films to get the 5ppb response you need?)

  • Icon for: Jennifer Novotney

    Jennifer Novotney

    May 23, 2012 | 08:05 a.m.

    The polymerization seems to be very scalable (at least within a laboratory setting). Once I found the right polymerization method I have been able to consistently get responsive films.

  • Icon for: Amber Bratcher

    Amber Bratcher

    May 23, 2012 | 09:34 p.m.

    Nice work! Perhaps I missed it, and just out of curiosity, what concentration of TNT would be considered the minimum level at which people interested in implementing your polymer would need to detect? In other words, what is the minimum amount of TNT that would raise safety concerns, and what are hoping to achieve for your lower limit of detection?

  • Icon for: Jennifer Novotney

    Jennifer Novotney

    May 24, 2012 | 05:56 p.m.

    Amber, that is a great question. At ambient conditions the concentration of TNT vapor near solid TNT is 5 parts per billion which is the concentration I have been testing. So this means my polymer can detect TNT in a real world setting. Being able to detect at lower concentrations would be nice though.

  • Small default profile

    Ken Noto

    May 28, 2012 | 08:42 p.m.

    Nice work, especially if it can save lives by detecting explosives.

    What are the real world uses for this though? Can a device be made to monitor your polymer, so if it goes dark, the device would alert? Some sort of box with a intake vent, sucking in air with an internal fan. Then blowing that air over your polymer, a monitor checking to see if it goes “dark”, and when it does – Alerts that an explosive has been detected nearby. Of course the polymer part would have to be in a cartridge or something like that – so you can just reinsert a new one from time to time.

    I can envision something like that being used at airports, on airplanes, even on the front of military vehicles – to test the air for IEDs. Good luck with your research!!

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Icon for: Jennifer Novotney


Cornell University
Years in Grad School: 2

Permanently porous conjugated polymers for the detection of low-volatility explosives

Low-volatility explosives pose a threat to public safety and military safety. These compounds, such as pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN), were implicated in recent failed terrorist acts (such as by the infamous “shoe bomber” in 2002). With appropriate tools, authorities can identify these chemical signatures from these explosives and take preventative action. A highly successful strategy based on fluorescence quenching of conjugated polymers has achieved commercial and military adoption for detecting trinitrotoluene (TNT); however, lower-volatility explosives, such as PETN and cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine (RDX), still require physical contact with a pre-concentrator (swabs seen at airports) or well-trained dogs. Thus, it is highly desirable to improve the sensitivity of conjugated materials such that they detect vapors of low-volatility explosives. My work focuses on pursuing major sensitivity gains by investigating emerging polymer architectures with high surface area and long-range order. Our strategy is to increase the surface area and dimensionality of conjugated pathways within the sensing material. Examples of sensing TNT vapors and other high explosives using nanoporous conjugated polymers will be presented.