With rapid development in both nanotechnology and biotechnology, it is now possible to combine these two exciting fields tomodulate the physical properties of nanomaterials with the molecular recognition and catalytic functional properties of biomolecules. Such research efforts have resulted in a larger number of sensors that can detect a broad range of analytes ranging from metal ions, small molecules, and nucleic acids down to proteins. These sensors will find important applications in nanomedicine. In this article, the design of sensors with four classes of nanomaterials (metallic, semiconductor, magnetic, and carbon nanotube nanoparticles) is reviewed. Metallic nanoparticles possess distancedependent optical properties and are useful for designing colorimetric sensors. Semiconductor nanoparticles or quantum dots (QDs) appear to be superior alternatives to traditional organic fluorophores in many aspects, such as broad excitation range, narrow emission peaks, and high photo stability. QD sensors based on either energy transfer or charge transfer are summarized. Furthermore, magnetic nanoparticles are shown to be useful as smart magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agents. Finally, some carbon nanotubes show near-IR emission properties, and thus, are potentially useful for in vivo sensing. Sensors based on either tuning the emission intensity or wavelength are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-46
Number of pages12
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Nanomedicine and Nanobiotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomedical Engineering

Cite this