Talks & Lectures
15 Nov 2019

Photonic Biosensing: Opportunities and Challenges

Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science

By Andrew G. Kirk

McGill University
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


Biomolecular sensors are widely used across a variety of applications including medical diagnostics, drug screening, environmental monitoring and research. Optical affinity sensors can detect low concentrations of target molecules in vitro via capture of the target molecules to an appropriately functionalised surface, followed by optical sensing of the surface properties. While various optical technologies have been demonstrated for sensing applications there remains a significant need for improved integration, packaging and signal processing techniques to realise the full potential of the technology. In this talk I will present some of the different approaches that we have taken to overcome these challanges. Nanostructured metallic (plasmonic) that nanoparticles fabricated via nanoimprint lithography can support several electromagnetic modes and we have shown that through suitable signal processing it is possible to infer multiple parameters from a single measurement, including the thickness of the bound layer, the refractive index of the buffer medium and the substrate. Resonant optical microcavities have also been of interest for biosensing for several years due to their high sensitivity to changes in the local optical environment. We have demonstrated recently that by interrogating these sensors in the time-domain it is possible to significantly simplify the measurement system when compared to frequency-domain measurements. Finally, I will show how the optical absorption properties of gold nanoparticles can be used to achieve an optically driven ultrafast polymerase chain reaction (PCR) system which has been used to achieve 30 cycles of a 20 mL sample in 54 seconds, a world’s first.


Andrew Kirk received the Ph.D. degree in Physics from King’s College (London) in 1992 and subsequently undertook postdoctoral research at the University of Tokyo and the Vrije Universiteit, Brussels, Belgium. He has been a member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill since 1996 and is author of more than 200 journal articles and conference presentations and holds 4 patents. His research interests are focused on the integration of nanophotonic components for biosensing and telecommunications. He is also an engaged teacher, having twice been awarded the Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching at McGill. He has served as Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and has previously served as Interim Dean of Engineering and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education. He is a former Chair of the IEEE Photonics Society Nanophotonics Technical Committee and in 2010 was appointed as a Distinguished Scholar for the Erasmus Mundus M.Sc. program in Photonics.

For more information, please contact Vanessa Irizarry at [email protected]

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