Detecting Chemicals on the Nanoscale

Energy efficient sensor and microreactor platforms

Natural gas has become a huge component of the energy market. However, in addition to the gases necessary for energy, deleterious materials including, toluene, benzene, and xylene, are also released into the environment. To combat the harmful effects of the toxic chemicals surrounding us, Dr. James Gole, of Georgia Institute of Technology, uses nanotechnology and the characteristics of materials at the nanoscale to create new devices. Such devices have an unprecedented sensitivity for gases that thereby make them important for improving public health and in decreasing the presence of gases that are deleterious to the environment. Dr. Gole’s research therefore helps develop new, energy efficient, simple to implement, and far more sensitive ways to detect and transform harmful environmental contaminants in addition to new means to create catalytic interfaces for energy efficient conversion.

Dr. Gole’s novel and unique concept that has lead to the creation of highly sensitive, energy efficient sensors is likely to change the futures of public health, environmental justice, and energy. His sensors are capable of detecting harmful chemicals more precisely than ever before. For example, in addition to helping to detect chemicals released by oil wells, Dr. Gole was asked by the San Diego and Georgia police forces to create a device that can more effectively detect phosphine, a chemical produced in Meth labs. Dr. Gole’s successful device is one of the world’s most sensitive phosphine devices and like the other technologies he has developed, is a major contribution to improving the health and wellness of the communities that it serves. In short, Dr. Gole’s orientation towards both the development of new fundamental concepts and also experiments that have a practical promise for society, makes his research critical for the health and safety of future generations.

Current Research

  • Detecting Asthma: The simultaneous detection of NO, NO, and NH can play an important role in the early detection of asthma. Dr. Gole and his team are working on a simple sensor platform for the simultaneous detection of such molecules as early markers of an asthma attack in order to allow the early application of home-based medication and the curtailment of incredibly expensive hospitalizations.

  • Natural Gas: Dr. Gole has developed platforms to selectively monitor H2S, SO2, NO, and N2 in the presence of benzene, toluene, and xylene. This project is incredibly important to the monitoring of harmful contaminants from oil drilling and natural gas facilities. Dr. Gole’s devices are able to detect chemicals at unprecedented levels with sensitivity and accuracy.

  • Detecting Meth Labs: Dr. Gole’s research is assisting the police departments in San Diego and Georgia to detect phosphere, a chemical produced when making methamphetamine and sometimes released by industrial companies. Through the development one of the world’s only phosphine sensing devices, he and his team are helping to make communities safer.


Dr. Gole has always been captivated by science of all forms. In his senior year of college, he worked in a first rate laboratory and experienced with joy the excitement of discovery found in conducting research. Now, as a research scientist, he enjoys mentoring students of his own. At present, in addition to graduate students, he has mentored over 125 undergrads with whom he has published thirty-seven of his 280 papers. Dr. Gole’s combined interest in research and educating future scientists is making a true impact!

In his free time, aside from research, Dr. Gole enjoys watching and reading about forensics and learning more about the ways in which science and forensics intersect. He also enjoys going to the symphony and performing at improv shows and with his wife who is a professional.



Fellow of the American Physical Society

Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Fellow

National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow

Georgia Tech Outstanding Research Author

Sigma Xi Sustained Research Award

Chairman Gordon Conference in High Temperature Materials, Processing and Diagnostics

Affiliate Member Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Named Georgia Tech Outstanding Undergraduate (Faculty) Research Mentor

Named “Professional of the Year” by Worldwide Who’s Who