Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy
College Station, Texas 77843
Biophotonics is a vibrant interdisciplinary field exploring the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and biological materials such as sub-cellular structures and molecules in living organisms. Biophotonics research leads to applications in agriculture & life sciences and produces tools for medical diagnostics and therapies. Working in this general field, we have recently made advances toward ultrasensitive Raman-spectroscopic probing of viruses. Our approach is based on laser spectroscopy aided by plasmonic nanoantennas, as in tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (TERS). An additional enhancement in sensitivity and speed is obtained by employing the femtosecond adaptive spectroscopic technique (FAST) for coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS). The combined approach allows nondestructive label-free biosensing with molecular-level sensitivity and with spatial resolution down to a fraction of a nanometer. This work will contribute to biomedical research and may well become a future approach for investigating and combatting diseases. Additionally, the unique tool promises to find applications in environmental studies (detecting and identifying toxic molds and other environmental pathogens), animal sciences (for example, studying carcinogenesis on a subcellular level), and plant studies (identifying molecular pathways of various life processes), as well as in materials research addressing the structure and function of novel systems, including topological and reduced-dimensionality materials.