Sensitivity control of optical fiber biosensors utilizing turnaround point long period gratings with self-assembled polymer coatings

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Virginia Tech

Biosensors have a multitude of important applications in basic research, environmental monitoring, biodefense, and medicine. This research aims to show that Ionic Self-Assembled Multilayers (ISAMs) adsorbed on Long Period Gratings (LPGs) can serve as a highly sensitive, robust, inexpensive optical-based biosensor platform. The ISAM technique is a layer-by-layer deposition method that builds nanometer-thick films based on the principle of Coulomb attraction between oppositely charged polyelectrolyte solutions while LPGs cause strong attenuation bands that enable an optical fiber to be extremely sensitive to changes in the surrounding environment. LPGs have been shown to be highly sensitive to the adsorption of nanoscale self-assembled films on the optical fiber cladding surface. In this work, we utilize Turnaround Point (TAP) LPGs, which possess even greater sensitivity than standard LPGs. This thesis focuses on evaluation of approaches to increasing the sensitivity of the sensor platfom, implementation of a biosensor for detection of several biomolecules, and preliminary evaluation of the potential for pH sensing.

For a thin-film coated TAP LPG, we have demonstrated that shifts in the transmitted light intensity at the resonant wavelength of the LPG can result from the variation in film thickness and/or refractive index. We have observed decreases in intensity as large a 7 dB for one bilayer of ISAM film (~1 nm), which corresponds to an 80% decrease in the transmitted light intensity at the resonant wavelength. We have also shown that the sensitivity of the TAP LPG sensor can be increased by implementing nm-thick ISAM films that have a refractive index greater than silica. Furthermore, it is shown that incorporation of silica nanoparticles into the ISAM films significantly increases sensitivity through increased surface area and thickness.

The biotin-streptavidin system was used as a model for implementaion and optimization of the ISAM-coated TAP LPG biosensor platform. Through evaluation of various biotin derivatives to maximize the amount functionalized onto the ISAM film, optimization of the ISAM film properties, and use of LPGs designed for higher sensitivity, the minimum detectable concentration of streptavidin was decreased from 0.0125 mg/ml to 12.0 ng/ml. The biosensor platform was then tested on prostate specific antigen (PSA), which is used as a clinical marker for early diagnosis of potential prostate cancer. Using a direct crosslinking approach of the monoclonal antibody to PSA into the ISAM film, a sensitivity level of 11.64 ng/ml PSA was obtained through combined optimization of the ISAM film and antibody surface coverage. Finally, the potential of ISAM TAP LPGs as pH sensors was examined based on the pH dependent swelling of ISAM films.

Optical Sensors, Nanometer-thick Thin Films, Long Period Fiber Grating, Biosensor, Fiber Optics, Ionic Self-Assembled Multilayers