This NSF Award funded by the Biosensing/CBET program supports the work of Professors Coté and Kameoka at Texas A&M University to develop a transformative optofluidic-based platform technology for use as a point-of-care (POC) biosensor. The technology platform would incorporate functionalized gold colloidal nanoparticles trapped at the entrance to a nanofluidic channel providing a robust means for analyte detection at trace levels using surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) by eliminating the need to look for ?hot spots? which are nonuniformly distributed in many other roughened metal surface approaches to SERS detection. The optofluidic technology is generalizable to any biomarker in complex biological media but the initial application will be the detection of cardiac biomarkers. The intellectual merit of the proposed activity: This proposal responds to the current needs of biomarker detection, namely an improvement in the robustness, repeatability, and sensitivity of biosensing. More specifically, we will produce and optimize a highly robust and transformative SERS signal enhancement technology using a novel optofluidic-based device. We will also optimize the chemistry platform for biomarker detection with an initial focus on cardiac biomarkers (CKMB, myoglobin, and troponin) for aiding in the diagnosis of myocardial infarction (MI) or rather a heart attack. This basic knowledge will open up a new field of ?optofluidic sensing at the nanoscale?. This unique patent pending platform technology was conceived of by biomedical engineering and electrical engineering faculty researchers at Texas A&M University. These investigators collaborate with an expert in chemical engineering, specifically protein biosensing. This multidisciplinary team has a history of collaboration as evidenced by several co-authored papers. The broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity: The activities identified in this proposal promote discovery of a new biosensing platform that is based on multidisciplinary collaboration in the areas of biomedical sensing, nanotechnology, and functionalization chemistry. This proposal focuses on an innovative means of cardiac biomarker monitoring for diagnosis of myocardial infarction and thus has the potential for enormous benefit to society as well as commercial and clinical potential. The proposed research provides an excellent opportunity to carry out innovative multidisciplinary research at the interface of biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, nanotechnology, chemical engineering, and biosensing. All Ph.D. level students trained within the frame work of this grant will have committee members from both departments thereby training students who embrace and actively pursue a multidisciplinary approach. Beyond individual training, parts of this material will be taught in courses to hundreds of students. We will use this opportunity to teach our Ph.D. students how to mentor junior (i.e., undergraduate) investigators. Every effort will be made to broaden participation of underrepresented groups. Specifically, undergraduate students will be recruited in collaboration with the NSF?Texas A&M LSAMP. We will use college level resources by participating in faculty presentations at National Meetings of the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Society of Women Engineers. Specifically, this proposal will be used to fund graduate students and additional REU supplements will be written to fund undergraduates, targeting recruitment at existing collaborating minority serving universities. The PI?s have a strong history of including diverse students and in publishing their results in high quality journals, presenting them at meetings, posting them on their web sites, promoting the science and engineering in the popular press, and providing lab tours, commonly given by participating investigators, to K-12 groups. Lastly, the PI has a long history of contributing to the innovation ecosystem by translating discoveries to small companies and starting small companies. Thus, as part of our training of students, we will expose them to all aspects of the entrepreneurial enterprise.

Project Report

The goal of this proposal was to develop a new optical biosensor technology that uses nanoparticles and microfluidics to detect biomarkers in the blood to help diagnose disease. The overall envisioned system is described and shown in Image 1. The initial application was to develop the device to detect the biomarkers in the blood that can be used to predict whether a person is having a heart attack. The secondary goal of the project was to train graduate students, undergraduate students, and perform some outreach activities for K-12 students. The multidisciplinary team designed, built, and tested several fluidic devices and solidified on the cartridge design shown in Image 2, which has a microchannel leading to a nanochannel. The nanoparticles were functionalized and put down the channel with the biomarker of interest. Once put down the microchannel the nanoparticles get trapped at the entrance of the nanochannel. These nanoparticles were probed optically using a bench-top optical system known as a Raman spectroscopy system. The optical signal from the Raman system was used to determine the biomarker concentration. There were three professors with expertise in biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and chemical engineering along with eight graduate students working on this multidisciplinary project. The information gained from the project was disseminated in a book chapter, a patent, and in several Ph.D. dissertations, journal papers, and conference proceedings. The work was partially described in a few undergraduate classes to hundreds of students. Some of the graduate students that were funded by this project also presented optical demonstrations to hundreds of K-12 students to help get them excited about the idea of becoming an engineer or scientist. Overall, although there is still work to be done to make this a final device that is ready for use by healthcare workers but the progress over this three year period has resulted in furthering the field of optical biosensing, training students, and reaching out to K-12 students to help them understand more about optics and engineering.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Texas Engineering Experiment Station
College Station
United States
Zip Code