Lighting the Way: Optical Sensors in the Life Sciences

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This presentation will describe recent developments in the Nano Sensors Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the design, fabrication, and application of optical biosensors. For portable biosensing applications, we have demonstrated the use of the internal camera of a smartphone as a high resolution spectrophotometer for performing a variety of label-free and label-based assays. For biosensing applications in pharmaceutical research, we have developed label-free biosensors based upon external cavity lasers that are capable of detecting small molecule drugs binding to large proteins by detecting picometer-scale changes in the lasing wavelength. The talk will describe a new microscope imaging modality called "Photonic Crystal Enhanced Microscopy (PCEM)" that is capable of imaging and quantifying the strength of cell attachment to a PC biosensor surface with sub-cell spatial resolution, that is being used to study fundamental processes including chemotaxis, proliferation, and stem cell differentiation. The ability of nanostructured surfaces such as photonic crystals or arrays of metal nanodomes to generate spatially confined, high intensity electromagnetic hot spots is being used to enhance the output of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) for drug molecules, and surface-based fluorescence assays for cancer biomarker proteins. Such nanostructures can be inexpensively manufactured from plastic, glass, or silicon to enable single-use applications, such as incorporating sensors into intravenous drug delivery tubing, or rapid multiplexed disease biomarker testing using only a droplet of serum. Finally, we have recently demonstrated the application of narrowband resonant optical filters operating in the infrared spectrum as a new histological imaging modality, called Discrete Frequency IR (DFIR) absorption spectroscopy, for rapid chemical imaging for applications in pathology and forensics. About the instructor: Brian T. Cunningham is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also serves as the Interim Director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, and as Director of the NSF Center for Agricultural, Biomedical, and Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology. He is serving as the IEEE Sensors Council 2013 Distinguished Lecturer. His research is in the development of biosensors and detection instruments for pharmaceutical high throughput screening, disease diagnostics, point-of-care testing, life science research, and environmental monitoring. He has published 125 peer-reviewed journal articles, and is an inventor on 75 patents. Prior to joining the faculty of Illinois in 2004, Prof. Cunningham was a co-founder of SRU Biosystems in 2000. He founded Exalt Diagnostics in 2012 to commercialize photonic crystal enhanced fluorescence technology for disease biomarker detection. Acoustic MEMS biosensor technology that he developed in his early career at Draper Laboratory has been licensed and commercialized by Bioscale, Inc. for applications in pathogen detection and diagnostics. Prof Cunningham's work has recently been recognized with the IEEE Sensors Council Technical Achievement Award for the invention, development, and commercialization of sensors based upon photonic crystals. He is a Fellow of IEEE and AIMBE.

This presentation will describe recent developments in the Nano Sensors Group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the design, fabrication, and application of optical biosensors.

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