PROJECT SUMMARY. We have recently developed a label-free biological and chemical sensing system known
as a frequency locked optical whispering evanescent resonator (FLOWER) that integrates microtoroid optical
resonators with frequency locking feedback control, which aids the suppression of noise. FLOWER is currently
capable of highly sensitive and rapid (under 30 seconds) label-free detection down to the single macromolecule
level, as demonstrated by the detection of single human interleukin-2 (IL-2) molecules. To date, FLOWER has
achieved a signal-to-noise ratio of 5 using an anti-IL-2 antibody layer immobilized on a microtoroid to specifically
capture IL-2. In addition to its high sensitivity, FLOWER has an advantage over other nanoscale sensing
platforms such as cantilevers or nanowires in that it possesses a relatively large capture area, increasing the
probability of analyte detection.
We propose (1) using FLOWER to target a large number of current biomedical problems which would
benefit from a rapid, sensitive, and accurate means to identify key microscopic, nanoscopic, or molecular
markers specific to the problem; (2) miniaturizing and multiplexing FLOWER and making it part of a self-
contained, compact portable device to quickly establish the prognosis of various conditions; and (3) further
increasing FLOWER’s sensitivity and selectivity, making it capable of detecting even smaller molecules with
societal interest such as insulin or more capable of detecting the small signal changes mentioned in (1). As such,
FLOWER may be used to understand the process of olfaction in synthetic optical noses or disease progression
in Alzheimer’s. FLOWER is a new method that has not been applied to these questions before and, with proof
of concept, has great potential to advance several fields.
If successful, this project would allow for a robust, extremely sensitive, and portable device that could be
given to an EMT or a solider in order for them to rapidly detect diseases or viruses and bacteria in drinking water
or food. These devices could empower citizen scientists to monitor their drinking supply or breathing air.
Furthermore, these devices could be easily translatable to other labs, enabling robust assays for drug library
screening, cell signaling studies, and clinical assays. Eventually, we envision these devices to be prevalent in
drug stores throughout the country, creating a convenient, inexpensive, routine, accessible, and non-invasive
means to impact the diagnosis and treatment of many diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer, pain from multiple
sclerosis, diabetes, addiction, and depression.