Yoctomole fluorescence sensing of single metal ions

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Physics


Metal ions play both functional and toxic role in biological systems. Many enzymes require metal cations as co-factors, for example, Se, Zn and Ca, are essential components of glutathione peroxidase, insulin and calmodulin, respectively. Yet excesive Cu and Zn have deleterious effects in that they contribute to the oxidative stress and inflammation in the central nervous system.The presence of metal ions in our environment, eg surface waters, also has important influence on our health.Therefore, monitoring the levels of metal ions in living oranisms and the environment is a key analytical issue in life sciences with links to clinical medicine and in pollution control. At present, monitoring metal ions is mainly based on measurement of average concentration, which enables detection of 1 ion in the sample consisting of few billions of other molecules. We propose developing a new approach for single molecule detection, which would allow finding 1 ion in one mole of other molecules. This step improvement in sensitivity can offer a new insight into the research on ion interactions on molecular level, as it removes the complexity associated with ensemble-averaged macroscopic measurements. The goal can be achieved by combining single molecule detection techniques, enabling observation of the volume as small as ~1 micrometer^3, with fluorescence technique based on counting single photons. The aim is to develop the sensor to be able to recognise a specific single metal ion by using an ion-selective molecular mechanism, namely fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET).


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Karolin J (2009) Fluorescence biosensing in nanopores. in Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. Annual International Conference

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Rolinski OJ (2008) Nonextensive kinetics of fluorescence resonance energy transfer. in The Journal of chemical physics

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Sutter J (2012) CdSe/ZnS core/shell quantum dots as luminescence lifetime sensors for Cu 2+ in Measurement Science and Technology

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Sutter JU (2008) Toward single-metal-ion sensing by Förster resonance energy transfer. in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Description Horiba Jobin Yvon IBH Ltd 
Organisation Horiba
Department Horiba Jobin Yvon IBH Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Testing new products and software upgrades in the lab. Supporting development of the new software for lifetime data analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Technical support on the fluorescence lifetime instrumentation and software.
Impact Some new versions of the lifetime data analysis software has been developed.
Start Year 2007