Ultrasensitive Detection of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes Using Surface Plasmon Resonance

Because single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are known to be a potentially dangerous material, inducing cancers and other diseases, any possible leakage of SWNTs through an aquatic medium such as drinking water will result in a major public threat. To solve this problem, for the present study, a highly sensitive, quantitative detection method of SWNTs in an aqueous solution was developed using surface plasmon resonance (SPR) spectroscopy. For a highly sensitive and specific detection, a strong affinity conjugation with biotin–streptavidin was adopted on an SPR sensing mechanism. During the pretreatment process, the SWNT surface was functionalized and hydrophilized using a thymine-chain based biotinylated single-strand DNA linker (B-ssDNA) and bovine serum albumin (BSA). The pretreated SWNTs were captured on a sensing film, the surface of which was immobilized with streptavidin on biotinylated gold film. The captured SWNTs were measured in real-time using SPR spectroscopy. Specific binding with SWNTs was verified through several validation experiments. The present method using an SPR sensor is capable of detecting SWNTs of as low as 100 fg/mL, which is the lowest level reported thus far for carbon-nanotube detection. In addition, the SPR sensor showed a linear characteristic within the range of 100 pg/mL to 200 ng/mL. These findings imply that the present SPR sensing method can detect an extremely low level of SWNTs in an aquatic environment with high sensitivity and high specificity, and thus any potential leakage of SWNTs into an aquatic environment can be precisely monitored within a couple of hours.