Nanotechnology Project

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Environment, Health and Safety Research

CAREER: Integrated-Optic Nanoparticle Biosensor Arrays

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorSteven M. Blair
InstitutionUniversity of Utah
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsMarginal
Class of NanomaterialGeneric
Impact SectorHuman Health
Broad Research Categories Hazard
NNI identifier

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$437,400.00
Annual Funding$72,900.00
Funding SourceNSF
Funding MechanismExtramural
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2002
Anticipated End Year2008


Research world-wide on biosensing is motivated by numerous applications in environmental and food testing and clinical diagnostics, for example. However, the important problem of detecting in parallel a large number of molecular species from the very small samples typical of most collection procedures remains an elusive goal. This CAREER research plan focuses on solving this problem by merging the science of nanophotonics with waveguide biosensors and microfluidics for the development of a new class of molecular detection array. The immobilization of metallic nanoparticles onto discrete zones of an optical waveguide surface makes the parallel detection of a large number of molecular species feasible. In each zone, capture molecules tethered to the nanoparticles preferentially bind to a particular molecular species through an affinity interaction. Strong localization of light about each nanoparticle allows for dramatic improvement in optical signal transduction, thereby facilitating the detection of small numbers of molecules bound within each zone. Microfluidics will be used to deliver small sample volumes to each sensing zone and passive mixing structures will be studied in order to increase the molecular binding probability within each zone. The education plan focuses on the creation of a summer optics workshop for secondary school physics and science teachers. As more demands are placed on teachers, and as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, teachers need a way in which to further their knowledge of science and hands-on teaching methods. Detailed lesson plans and laboratory exercises will be developed for deployment in the classroom, with the goal of improving student understanding of and instruction in optics and the sciences, and encouraging students to pursue careers in engineering and science. Participation of teachers from Hispanic and Native American schools will be strongly encouraged.