We demonstrate the improvement of fluorescence immunoassay (FIA) diagnostics in deploying a newly developed compact diode-pumped solid state (DPSS) laser with emission at 315 nm. The laser is based on the quasi-three-level transition in Nd:YAG at 946 nm. The pulsed operation is either realized by an active Q-switch using an electro-optical device or by introduction of a Cr<sup>4+</sup>:YAG saturable absorber as passive Q-switch element. By extra-cavity second harmonic generation in different nonlinear crystal media we obtained blue light at 473 nm. Subsequent mixing of the fundamental and the second harmonic in a β-barium-borate crystal provided pulsed emission at 315 nm with up to 20 μJ maximum pulse energy and 17 ns pulse duration. Substitution of a nitrogen laser in a FIA diagnostics system by the DPSS laser succeeded in considerable improvement of the detection limit. Despite significantly lower pulse energies (7 μJ DPSS laser versus 150 μJ nitrogen laser), in preliminary investigations the limit of detection was reduced by a factor of three for a typical FIA.
Quantum dots (QDs) are common as luminescing markers for imaging in biological applications because their optical properties seem to be inert against their surrounding solvent. This, together with broad and strong absorption bands and intense, sharp tuneable luminescence bands, makes them interesting candidates for methods utilizing Forster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), e. g. for sensitive homogeneous fluoroimmunoassays (FIA). In this work we demonstrate energy transfer from Eu<sup>3+</sup>-trisbipyridin (Eu-TBP) donors to CdSe-ZnS-QD acceptors in solutions with and without serum. The QDs are commercially available CdSe-ZnS core-shell particles emitting at 655 nm (QD655). The FRET system was achieved by the binding of the streptavidin conjugated donors with the biotin conjugated acceptors. After excitation of Eu-TBP and as result of the energy transfer, the luminescence of the QD655 acceptors also showed lengthened decay times like the donors. The energy transfer efficiency, as calculated from the decay times of the bound and the unbound components, amounted to 37%. The Forster-radius, estimated from the absorption and emission bands, was ca. 77Å. The effective binding ratio, which not only depends on the ratio of binding pairs but also on unspecific binding, was obtained from the donor emission dependent on the concentration. As serum promotes unspecific binding, the overall FRET efficiency of the assay was reduced. We conclude that QDs are good substitutes for acceptors in FRET if combined with slow decay donors like Europium. The investigation of the influence of the serum provides guidance towards improving binding properties of QD assays.
Two examples of our biophotonic research utilizing nanoparticles are presented, namely laser-based fluoroimmuno analysis and in-vivo optical oxygen monitoring. Results of the work include significantly enhanced sensitivity of a homogeneous fluorescence immunoassay and markedly improved spatial resolution of oxygen gradients in root nodules of a legume species.