Metamaterials for Advanced Sensing Applications

More than 1.5 million new cancer diagnoses are expected in 2016 and more than half a million Americans die from cancer every year. Increased awareness, high-throughput screening, and detailed medical databases have increased our understanding of cancer and made detection and treatment more effective. Advanced diagnostics will play a critical role in making continued progress on survival rates and quality of life. Ultrasensitive devices that can detect low-concentration biomarkers can identify the onset of cancers before they become clinically relevant. Such biosensors can also be used to track every aspect of the treatment regimen, from the progress of the disease to the effectiveness of clinical interventions, such as immunotherapies.

This project aims to develop a novel plasmonic biosensor platform that will outperform standard detection techniques, including enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in both sensitivity and read-out time.   It combines two revolutionary technologies:  hyperbolic metamaterials (HMMs) with their ultrasensitive plasmon modes, and aptamers as high-specificity, high-affinity recognition molecules that can be custom designed for a wide variety of possible biomarkers.  The great potential of HMMs has been dramatically illustrated in our preliminary experiments, recently published in Nature Materials.  

By optically coupling the HMM to an avidin-functionalized diffraction grating within a microfluidic chip, we were able to achieve a device with a record sensitivity, and the lowest detection limit for the small-molecule analyte biotin (2.4 pg/mL) of all biotin assay techniques developed to date. Our proposal seeks to significantly broaden the scope and practicality of this sensing platform, making it a universal, customizable system by using aptamers as the bio-recognition element.

References:  (Among others see Publication list)

  • (2016) Nature Materials, 15, 621-627, “Extreme sensitivity biosensing platform based on hyperbolic metamaterials
  • (2016) Adv. Opt. Mat., 4, 11, ‘Enhancing the Angular Sensitivity of Plasmonic Sensors Using Hyperbolic Metamaterials’
  • (2017) EPJ-AM, 4,1, “Hyperbolic metamaterials-based plasmonic biosensor for fluid biopsy with single molecule sensitivity”