Photonic crystal (PC) surfaces have been demonstrated as a compelling platform for improving the sensitivity of surface-based fluorescent assays used in disease diagnostics and life science research. PCs can be engineered to support optical resonances at specific wavelengths at which strong electromagnetic fields are utilized to enhance the intensity of surface-bound fluorophore excitation. Meanwhile, the leaky resonant modes of PCs can be used to direct emitted photons within a narrow range of angles for more efficient collection by a fluorescence detection system. The multiplicative effects of enhanced excitation combined with enhanced photon extraction combine to provide improved signal-to-noise ratios for detection of fluorescent emitters, which in turn can be used to reduce the limits of detection of low concentration analytes, such as disease biomarker proteins. Fabrication of PCs using inexpensive manufacturing methods and materials that include replica molding on plastic, nano-imprint lithography on quartz substrates result in devices that are practical for single-use disposable applications. In this review, we will describe the motivation for implementing high-sensitivity fluorescence detection in the context of molecular diagnosis and gene expression analysis though the use of PC surfaces. Recent efforts to improve the design and fabrication of PCs and their associated detection instrumentation are summarized, including the use of PCs coupled with Fabry-Perot cavities and external cavity lasers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5561-5584
Number of pages24
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Biomarker
  • Cancer diagnostics
  • DNA microarray
  • Fluorescence
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Nanolithography
  • Nanostructured surface
  • Photonic crystal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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