Optimally designed nanolayered metal-dielectric particles as probes for massively multiplexed and ultrasensitive molecular assays

Anil K. Kodali, Xavier Llora, Rohit Bhargava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An outstanding challenge in biomedical sciences is to devise a palette of molecular probes that can enable simultaneous and quantitative imaging of tens to hundreds of species down to ultra-low concentrations. Addressing this need using surface-enhanced Raman scattering-based probes is potentially possible. Here, we theorize a rational design and optimization strategy to obtain reproducible probes using nanospheres with alternating metal and reporter-filled dielectric layers. The isolation of reporter molecules from metal surfaces suppresses chemical enhancement, and consequently signal enhancements are determined by electromagnetic effects alone. This strategy synergistically couples interstitial surface plasmons and permits the use of almost any molecule as a reporter by eliminating the need for surface attachment. Genetic algorithms are employed to optimize the layer dimensions to provide controllable enhancements exceeding 11 orders of magnitude and of single molecule sensitivity for nonresonant and resonant reporters, respectively. The strategy also provides several other opportunities, including a facile route to tuning the response of these structures to be spectrally flat and localization of the enhancement within a specific volume inside or outside the probe. The spectrally uniform enhancement for multiple excitation wavelengths and for different shifts enables generalized probes, wheras enhancement tuning permits a large dynamic range by suppression of enhancements from outside the probe. Combined, these theoretical calculations open the door for a set of reproducible and robust probes with controlled sensitivity for molecular sensing over a concentration range of over 20 orders of magnitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13620-13625
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 3 2010


  • Chemical imaging
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Surface enhanced
  • Vibrational spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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