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Design and Fabrication of Fiber-Optic Nanoprobes for Optical Sensing

Yan Zhang12, Anuj Dhawan12 and Tuan Vo-Dinh123*

Author Affiliations

1 Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA

2 Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA

3 Department of Chemistry, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA

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Nanoscale Res Lett 2011, 6:18  doi:10.1007/s11671-010-9744-5

Published: 31 August 2010


This paper describes the design and fabrication of fiber-optic nanoprobes developed for optical detection in single living cells. It is critical to fabricate probes with well-controlled nanoapertures for optimized spatial resolution and optical transmission. The detection sensitivity of fiber-optic nanoprobe depends mainly on the extremely small excitation volume that is determined by the aperture sizes and penetration depths. We investigate the angle dependence of the aperture in shadow evaporation of the metal coating onto the tip wall. It was found that nanoaperture diameters of approximately 50 nm can be achieved using a 25° tilt angle. On the other hand, the aperture size is sensitive to the subtle change of the metal evaporation angle and could be blocked by irregular metal grains. Through focused ion beam (FIB) milling, optical nanoprobes with well-defined aperture size as small as 200 nm can be obtained. Finally, we illustrate the use of the nanoprobes by detecting a fluorescent species, benzo[a]pyrene tetrol (BPT), in single living cells. A quantitative estimation of the numbers of BPT molecules detected using fiber-optic nanoprobes for BPT solutions shows that the limit of detection was approximately 100 molecules.

Fiber-optic nanoprobes; Focused ion beam; Shadow evaporation; Optical sensing