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Abstract

Through the integration of metallic nanoparticles with various nucleic acid amplification systems and other bioanalytical techniques we focused on interfacing biology, chemistry, nanotechnology, and materials sciences to address both fundamental and application-driven challenges in the multidisciplinary research space. These exciting frontiers offer unparalleled opportunities for designing groundbreaking advances in medical diagnostics, optically responsive materials, and complex self-assemblies. Using nucleic acids as the backbone for our research allows the exploitation of their well-defined and highly programmable structure to achieve organization with nanoscale precision. By manipulating these biopolymers, we are looking for a deeper understanding of the relationship between structure and function and new avenues to use these processes for the controllable self-assembly of biological components and other nanomaterials. The combination of these research interests has led to exciting themes which encompass the broad nature of our research and promote multifaceted expansion and many opportunities for future interdisciplinary projects. Capitalizing on the unique properties of colloidal gold nanoparticles, we have developed creative solutions which employ these to improve existing nucleic acid amplifications. Beginning with the simple involvement of the particles as directing and concentrating agents to bring the reaction components of isothermal nucleic acid amplification together to increase their dynamical interactions, we dramatically improved the specificity and sensitivity of this assay. Looking deeper into the properties of the particles, we demonstrated that the photothermal capabilities were tunable and could be optimized to provide an alternative way to heat reaction mixtures rapidly, accurately, and without compromising the integrity of the reactions. Finally, by relying on the plasmonic response particles incur when they are brought within close proximity to each other, we developed an actuator which uses this plasmonic response as the reporter for the structural change that results from different environmental conditions. Our studies, which have direct applications, deepen our fundamental understanding of the optical properties of various metallic particles and address current opportunities to ultimately improve bioanalytical techniques.

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