Virus detector harnesses ring of light in 'whispering gallery mode'

Aug 24, 2012

By affixing nanoscale gold spheres onto a microscopic bead of glass, researchers have created a super-sensor that can detect even single samples of the smallest known viruses. The sensor uses a peculiar behavior of light known as "whispering gallery mode," named after the famous circular gallery in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where a whisper near the wall can be heard around the gallery.

In a similar way, waves of light are sent whirling around the inside of a small glass bead, resonating at a specific frequency. Just as a small object on a vibrating violin string can change its frequency – ever so slightly – so too can a virus landing on the sensor change the resonant frequency of the light.

With the initial glass sphere, researchers were able to detect changes in frequency from viruses about the size of influenza, a relatively large virus. The system, however, was not sensitive enough to detect anything smaller, such as the .

The researchers were able to increase the sensitivity of the device nearly seventyfold by adding gold nanospheres to the surface of the glass, which created what the researchers referred to as "plasmonic hot spots" – areas where the coupled with waves of electrons. This hybrid sensor not only detected the presence of the MS2 virus – the current light-weight in the world of RNA viruses – it also was able to determine the weight of the virus by measuring the precise frequency change of the light. With a few minor adjustments, the sensor should also be able to detect single proteins, such as that appear in the blood long before outward signs of cancer can be detected.

The results were published in the American Institute of Physics (AIP) journal .

Explore further: New nanogenerator harvests power from rolling tires

More information: Appl. Phys. Lett. 101, 043704 (2012); doi:10.1063/1.4739473

Related Stories

Researcher Develops Sensor to Detect E.coli

Sep 24, 2006

As the Food and Drug Administration takes days to track down the source of the E. coli outbreak, Dr. Raj Mutharasan is optimizing a sensor that can enable growers to do the job themselves in a few minutes.

Recommended for you

Nanowires could be the LEDs of the future

Jun 24, 2015

The latest research from the Niels Bohr Institute shows that LEDs made from nanowires will use less energy and provide better light. The researchers studied nanowires using X-ray microscopy and with this ...

Researchers detect spin precession in silicon nanowires

Jun 24, 2015

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have reported the first observation of spin precession of spin currents flowing in a silicon nanowire (NW) transport channel, and determined spin lifetimes ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.