Conventional quantitative protein assays of bodily fluids typically involve multiple steps to obtain desired measurements. Such methods are not well suited for fast and accurate assay measurements in austere environments such as spaceflight and in the aftermath of disasters. Consequently, there is a need for a protein assay technology capable of routinely monitoring proteins in austere environments. For example, there is an immediate need for a urine protein assay to assess astronaut renal health during spaceflight. The disclosed nanoscale surface plasmonics sensor provides a core detection method that can be integrated to a lab-on-chip device that satisfies the unmet need for such a protein assay technology.

Assays based upon combinations of nanoholes, nanorings, and nanoslits with transmission surface plasmon resonance (SPR) are used for assays requiring extreme sensitivity, and are capable of detecting specific analytes at concentrations as low as picomole to femtomole level in well-controlled environments.

The device operates in a transmission mode configuration in which light is directed at one planar surface of the array, which functions as an optical aperture. The incident light induces surface plasmon light transmission from the opposite surface of the array. The presence of a target analyte is detected by changes in the spectrum of light transmitted by the array when a target analyte induces a change in the refractive index of the fluid within the nanochannels. This occurs, for example, when a target analyte binds to a receptor fixed to the walls of the nanochannels in the array. Independent fluid handling capability for individual nanoarrays on a nanofluidic chip containing a plurality of nanochannel arrays allows each array to be used to sense a different target analyte and/or for paired arrays to analyze control and test samples simultaneously in parallel.

The present invention incorporates transmission mode nanoplasmonics and nanofluidics into a single, microfluidically controlled device. The device comprises one or more arrays of aligned nanochannels that are in fluid communication with inflowing and outflowing fluid handling manifolds that control the flow of fluid through the arrays. The array acts as an aperture in a plasmonic sensor. Fluid, in the form of a liquid or a gas and comprising a sample for analysis, is moved from an inlet manifold through the nanochannel array, and out through an exit manifold. The fluid may also contain a reagent used to modify the interior surfaces of the nanochannels, and/or a reagent required for the detection of an analyte.

This work was done by Jianjun Wei and Sameer Singhal of CFD Research Corporation, and David H. Waldeck and Matthew Kofke of the University of Pittsburgh for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steven Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18967-1.