Ultra Stable Molecular Sensors by Submicron Referencing and Why They Should Be Interrogated by Optical Diffraction—Part II. Experimental Demonstration

22. December 2020

Frutiger, A. et al. Sensors 21, (2020)

Label-free optical biosensors are an invaluable tool for molecular interaction analysis. Over the past 30 years, refractometric biosensors and, in particular, surface plasmon resonance have matured to the de facto standard of this field despite a significant cross reactivity to environmental and experimental noise sources. In this paper, we demonstrate that sensors that apply the spatial affinity lock-in principle (part I) and perform readout by diffraction overcome the drawbacks of established refractometric biosensors. We show this with a direct comparison of the cover refractive index jump sensitivity as well as the surface mass resolution of an unstabilized diffractometric biosensor with a state-of-the-art Biacore 8k. A combined refractometric diffractometric biosensor demonstrates that a refractometric sensor requires a much higher measurement precision than the diffractometric to achieve the same resolution. In a conceptual and quantitative discussion, we elucidate the physical reasons behind and define the figure of merit of diffractometric biosensors. Because low-precision unstabilized diffractometric devices achieve the same resolution as bulky stabilized refractometric sensors, we believe that label-free optical sensors might soon move beyond the drug discovery lab as miniaturized, mass-produced environmental/medical sensors. In fact, combined with the right surface chemistry and recognition element, they might even bring the senses of smell/taste to our smart devices.