Label-free detection of single nanoparticles and biological molecules using microtoroid optical resonators

Judith Su, Alexander F.G. Goldberg, Brian M. Stoltz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


Single-molecule detection is one of the fundamental challenges of modern biology. Such experiments often use labels that can be expensive, difficult to produce, and for small analytes, might perturb the molecular events being studied. Analyte size plays an important role in determining detectability. Here we use laser-frequency locking in the context of sensing to improve the signal-to-noise ratio of microtoroid optical resonators to the extent that single nanoparticles 2.5 nm in radius, and 15.5 kDa molecules are detected in aqueous solution, thereby bringing these detectors to the size limits needed for detecting the key macromolecules of the cell. Our results, covering several orders of magnitude of particle radius (100 nm to 2 nm), agree with the 'reactive' model prediction for the frequency shift of the resonator upon particle binding. This confirms that the main contribution of the frequency shift for the resonator upon particle binding is an increase in the effective path length due to part of the evanescent field coupling into the adsorbed particle. We anticipate that our results will enable many applications, including more sensitive medical diagnostics and fundamental studies of single receptor-ligand and protein-protein interactions in real time.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16001
JournalLight: Science and Applications
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 CIOMP.


  • biosensing
  • frequency locking
  • label-free
  • microtoroid
  • single molecule


Dive into the research topics of 'Label-free detection of single nanoparticles and biological molecules using microtoroid optical resonators'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this