Date Available


Year of Publication


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Electrical Engineering

First Advisor

Todd Hastings


Surface plasmon waves are TM polarized charge density waves that propagate at the interface of two media with real dielectric constants of opposite sign (i.e. liquid dielectric and certain metals). Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) sensors use these waves to detect refractive index changes adjacent to the metal layer. Refractive index changes arise from the binding of an analyte (e.g. a target molecule, protein, or bacterium) to the functionalized metal layer or from interfering effects such as changes in solution index. Standard, single channel SPR sensors cannot differentiate these two effects as their design allows only one mode to be coupled. This novel self-referencing technique employs two surface plasmon modes to simultaneously measure surface binding and solution refractive index. Dual surface plasmon modes are achieved by matching the refractive indices on either side of the metal film. The two modes generated - symmetric, long-range surface plasmon (LRSP) and anti-symmetric, short-range surface plasmon (SRSP) - have different field profiles and hence assist in differentiating solution refractive index changes from surface layer formation. Amorphous Teflon, with a refractive index close to water, is chosen as the buffer layer and gold is chosen as the metal layer. Magnesium fluoride, with a higher index than Teflon, is used as the buffer layer when using ethanol as the base solution. The sensor operation was optimized through simulations to yield higher sensitivity, lower reflectivity and resonances within the spectrometers range. Optimization results showed good performance over a wide range for Teflon, MgF2 and gold thicknesses which helped in the fabrication of the sensor. Demonstration of self-referencing operation was done through two different sets of experiments: (1) formation of an alkanethiol self-assembled monolayer on gold in the presence of ethanol and methanol solutions having different refractive indices and (2) streptavidin-biotin binding with solutions of different NaCl concentration and thus different refractive indices. In both these experiments, the resonance wavelengths were accurately predicted, reflectivity varied by 10-15% and sensitivity by 25% from that of the simulated values.