MechE Alliance Talk - Meeting (& preventing) new challenges in bio(chemical) sensing

October 7, 2020

Bio(chemical) sensors play an outsized role in medical care, biological research, drug development, national security, and environmental monitoring, as exemplified by the current need for SARS-CoV-2 virus detection. I will outline the inherent challenges associated with the development and large-scale deployment of reliable sensors for detection of new viral and bacterial pathogens and environmental pollutants. I will also discuss the approaches we are exploring to meet these challenges by combining photonic amplification, biological recognition & nano-mechanical forces on nano-photonic and nano-plasmonic chips. As one of the examples, I will introduce a concept of the High Contrast Probe Cleavage Detection mechanism, which makes use of the dramatic optical signal amplification caused by cleavage of large numbers of high-contrast nanoparticle labels. This method is drastically different from the common photonic biosensing approach based on recognizing and amplifying the signal caused by the adsorption of low-index biological molecules, and holds promise for rapid development of new sensors for detecting SARS-CoV-2 virus and other yet-unknown harmful pathogens. I will also briefly mention our work on new materials development aimed at preventing future environmental pollution and reducing risks of transmission of bacterial and viral infections.