Tiny grains give huge gains: Nanocrystal-based signal amplification for biomolecule detection

Sheng Tong, Binbin Ren, Zhilan Zheng, Han Shen, Gang Bao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Nanocrystals, despite their tiny sizes, contain thousands to millions of atoms. Here we show that the large number of atoms packed in each metallic nanocrystal can provide a huge gain in signal amplification for biomolecule detection. We have devised a highly sensitive, linear amplification scheme by integrating the dissolution of bound nanocrystals and metal-induced stoichiometric chromogenesis, and demonstrated that signal amplification is fully defined by the size and atom density of nanocrystals, which can be optimized through well-controlled nanocrystal synthesis. Further, the rich library of chromogenic reactions allows implementation of this scheme in various assay formats, as demonstrated by the iron oxide nanoparticle linked immunosorbent assay (ILISA) and blotting assay developed in this study. Our results indicate that, owing to the inherent simplicity, high sensitivity and repeatability, the nanocrystal based amplification scheme can significantly improve biomolecule quantification in both laboratory research and clinical diagnostics. This novel method adds a new dimension to current nanoparticle-based bioassays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5142-5150
Number of pages9
JournalACS Nano
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 25 2013


  • detection
  • nanocrystal
  • signal amplification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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