The physics of extreme sensitivity in whispering gallery mode optical biosensors

Lopez-Yglesias, Xerxes; Gamba, Jason M.; Flagan, Richard C.
April 2012
Journal of Applied Physics;Apr2012, Vol. 111 Issue 8, p084701
Academic Journal
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) optical biosensors are capable of extraordinarily sensitive specific and nonspecific detection of species suspended in a gas or fluid. Recent experimental results suggest that these devices may attain single-molecule sensitivity to protein solutions in the form of stepwise shifts in their resonance wavelength, λR, but present sensor models predict much smaller steps than were reported. This study examines the physical interaction between a WGM sensor and a molecule adsorbed to its surface, exploring assumptions made in previous efforts to model WGM sensor behavior, and describing computational schemes that model the experiments for which single protein sensitivity was reported. The resulting model is used to simulate sensor performance, within constraints imposed by the limited material property data. On this basis, we conclude that nonlinear optical effects would be needed to attain the reported sensitivity, and that, in the experiments for which extreme sensitivity was reported, a bound protein experiences optical energy fluxes too high for such effects to be ignored.


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