Physics Colloquium: Atoms of light as Bio-sensors: Fulfilling the promise of single virus detection without labels

For NYU Community

Presented By: Stephen Arnold, University & Thomas Potts Professor of Physics, Polytechnic Institute of NYU

MicroParticle PhotoPhysics Lab (MP3L) |

The world is awash with pathogens. You can hardly pass through one week without noticing bio-threats in the news media (e.g. avian Flu, HIV, smallpox). More diseases have recently been associated with infectious agents.1 In the last century antibiotics have helped to control many bacterial predators. However viral nano-machines have been difficult to deal with because often their genome is integrated within our human genome. All believe that rapid identification and sensitive detection are keys to intervention. At the Polytechnic a Bio-Photonic technique derived from a fusion between Physics, telecom, and biochemistry is being employed for sensing virus. In this presentation I will describe the essential Physics, Biochemistry, and Electrical Engineering that have been brought together for this purpose. The result, the Photonic Atom Bio-sensor2 may be the most sensitive gadget ever built for identifying individual virions.3 It also leads to a new form of opto-nano-fluidics that can potentially lead to the first bio-particle size-spectrometer operating in solution.

1.    P.W. Ewald, “Mastering Disease”, in The Next Fifty Years, Ed. John Brockman, (Vintage Books, May, 2002), pp. 289-301.
2.    S. Arnold, R. Ramjit, D. Keng, V. Kolchenko, I. Teraoka, Faraday Discuss.137, 65-83(2008).
3.    F. Vollmer, S. Arnold, D. Keng, Proc. National Academy of Sciences 105, 20701-20704(2008).