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Keywords:

  • biosensors;
  • colloids;
  • gold;
  • nanotechnology;
  • surface plasmon resonance

Abstract

Gold nanoparticle (AuNP)-based colorimetric biosensing assays have recently attracted considerable attention in diagnostic applications due to their simplicity and versatility. This Minireview summarizes recent advances in this field and attempts to provide general guidance on how to design such assays. The key to the AuNP-based colorimetric sensing platform is the control of colloidal AuNP dispersion and aggregation stages by using biological processes (or analytes) of interest. The ability to balance interparticle attractive and repulsive forces, which determine whether AuNPs are stabilized or aggregated and, consequently, the color of the solution, is central in the design of such systems. AuNP aggregation in these assays can be induced by an “interparticle-crosslinking” mechanism in which the enthalpic benefits of interparticle bonding formation overcome interparticle repulsive forces. Alternatively, AuNP aggregation can be guided by the controlled loss of colloidal stability in a “noncrosslinking-aggregation” mechanism. In this case, as a consequence of changes in surface properties, the van der Waals attractive forces overcome interparticle repulsive forces. Using representative examples we illustrate the general strategies that are commonly used to control AuNP aggregation and dispersion in AuNP-based colorimetric assays. Understanding the factors that play important roles in such systems will not only provide guidance in designing AuNP-based colorimetric assays, but also facilitate research that exploits these principles in such areas as nanoassembly, biosciences and colloid and polymer sciences.