The ability to detect biological molecules ranging from protein to sugars is essential in many diagnostic scenarios. Today, many of these methods require some sort of labelling to identify the molecules investigated.

We have recently developed a nanofabricated sensor platform which can detect and distinguish between different molecules without the need for labelling. The technology relies on the inherent chiral nature of biological molecules. In the past polarimetry and circular dichroism have been used to detect structural characteristic of molecules in solution. However, our device uses a plasmonic enhancement and has thus increased the sensitivity by six orders of magnitude.

Applicants in this area will be engineers and physicists developing the device, instrumentation and model development as well as chemists and biologists for sample analysis.

Research topics

Device fabrication

The devices are fabricated using traditional nanofabrication methods such as electron beam lithography, metal deposition and etching. One of the aims is to develop fabrication routes to up-scale the manufacturing of the devices. This could include nanoimprint lithography.

Instrumentation and system integration

Presently, we use commercial polarisation equipment to carry out analysis, but we wish to design and implement the devices into a full system. This will involve optical and detector development together with automatisation and software integration.

Biological model systems

Our spectroscopic approach spans a far greater range than traditional techniques. This enables us, using the same system, to analyse from amino acids, over proteins to mescscopic fibrillar assemblies. The latter has great interest in a range of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s which is related to the formation of protein amyloids.