Optofluidic plasmonics could detect biochemical weapons

Optofluidic plasmonics, a new method of biological detection and analysis, may have positive implications for detecting biochemical weapons as well as researching new drugs and finding cancer earlier.

A team of investigators led by Yeshaiahu Fainman at the University of California - San Diego, has combined plasmonics with a microfluidics system to create this new methodology. Plasmonics is the study of electron waves placed on a metal surface that are excited by incoming light waves, according to PhysOrg.com.

Optofluidic plasmonics is a potential optical solution for researchers of how microscopic compounds react with each other.

“We need to increase the interaction cross-section by finding ways to localize optical interrogation fields ideally to the scales comparable to those biomolecules,” Fainman said, according to PhysOrg.com.

Because this phenomenon is not yet possible, Fainman’s team combined plasmonics and microfluidics on single chips, which resulted in the fluid moving the molecules into the desired cross-section for the optical field.

Large arrays of protein interactions can be viewed using this system, which will allow researchers to identify effective drugs and to have efficient medical diagnoses. This system would remove the necessity to label molecules with radioactive or fluorescent markers, which can block or cover up the reactions of the protein.

The system is multiplexed and has high throughput, which gives researchers the opportunity to examine thousands of these compounds at the same time, PhysOrg.com reports.