We review the development and application of nanostructured photonic crystal surfaces and a hyperspectral reflectance imaging detection instrument which, when used together, represent a new form of optical microscopy that enables label-free, quantitative, and kinetic monitoring of biomaterial interaction with substrate surfaces. Photonic Crystal Enhanced Microscopy (PCEM) has been used to detect broad classes of materials which include dielectric nanoparticles, metal plasmonic nanoparticles, biomolecular layers, and live cells. Because PCEM does not require cytotoxic stains or photobleachable fluorescent dyes, it is especially useful for monitoring the long-term interactions of cells with extracellular matrix surfaces. PCEM is only sensitive to the attachment of cell components within ~200 nm of the photonic crystal surface, which may correspond to the region of most interest for adhesion processes that involve stem cell differentiation, chemotaxis, and metastasis. PCEM has also demonstrated sufficient sensitivity for sensing nanoparticle contrast agents that are roughly the same size as protein molecules, which may enable applications in “digital” diagnostics with single molecule sensing resolution. We will review PCEM’s development history, operating principles, nanostructure design, and imaging modalities that enable tracking of optical scatterers, emitters, absorbers, and centers of dielectric permittivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21613-21635
Number of pages23
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 28 2015


  • Biomaterial detection
  • Label-free bioimaging
  • Live cell imaging
  • Nanoparticle detection
  • Nanophotonics
  • Photonic crystal
  • Photonic crystal biosensor
  • Photonic crystal enhanced fluorescence (PCEF)
  • Photonic crystal enhanced microscopy (PCEM)
  • Photonic crystal surface
  • Protein-protein binding detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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