Plasmon-Enhanced Chiroptical Biosensors

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Chemistry


Polarimetry has been used for over two hundred years to detect and characterise inherently chiral biomolecules and
biomaterials. In this proposal we will use a 21st century "re-boot" of polarimetry, which uses chiral evanescent
electromagnetic fields produced by chiral plasmonic nanostructures instead of circularly polarised light, to achieve (sub)
picogram detection / characterisation of an analyte. We will develop biosensors that use plasmon-enhanced polarimetry,
superpolarimetry, to both transduce binding events and provide structural information on the bound analyte. These sensors
will provide label-free detection of analytes, and will be applied in an array-based format to the analysis of complex biofluids
while providing fundamental information on nanoscale chiroptical phenomena.

The vision at the heart of our research is the creation of a new sensor platform based on plasmon-enhanced chiroptical
effects. In addition to this goal, we expect that we will obtain fundamental advances in the understanding of chiroptical
behavior. In the course of our research we will develop new high-throughput methods to fabricate sensors, opening up
potential real-world applications of superpolarimetry. Taken together, our expectation is that the proposed research will
provide the foundational research required to bridge the gap between fundamental discovery and a widely useable sensor

Planned Impact

Economic: It is likely that this methodology, in the longer term, will find application in the: healthcare industries (e.g. sensing
and investigation of human pathogenic materials such as fibrillar materials and viruses) and food security (e.g. enabling
rapid detection and evaluation of biological and chemical contaminants). Such applications have significant economic
impact. The market for biosensor/electronics is currently worth in excess of $12 billion per year, and there is a very strong
biotechnology presence in the UK. The potential technologies under consideration represent a radically new approach to
well established sensing and analysis techniques. As a consequence, our methodology will likely prove highly attractive to
a range of healthcare and related industries. Resulting intellectual property will be exploited through the Research and
Enterprise Unit of the University of Glasgow and possibly through the formation of a spin out company.

Societal: In the longer term the successful completion of this research programme will result in the development of highly
sensitive and selective platforms for undertaking biosensing. As a result, this technology will have a considerable impact
in a number of important societal issues such as next generation healthcare and improving the quality of life of the UK's
ageing population.