Design of surfaces for liquid crystal-based bioanalytical assays

Aaron M. Lowe, Byram H. Ozer, Yiqun Bai, Paul J. Bertics, Nicholas L. Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Surface-induced ordering of liquid crystals (LCs) offers the basis of a label-free analytical technique for the detection of surface-bound biomolecules. The orientation-dependent energy of interaction of a LC with a surface (anchoring energy of LC), in particular, is both sensitive to the presence of surface-bound molecules and easily quantified. Herein, we report a study that analyzes a simple model of twisted nematic LC systems and thereby identifies surfaces with LC anchoring energies in the range of 0.5 μJ/m2 to 2.0 μJ/m2 to be optimal for use with LC-based analytical methods. Guided by these predictions, we demonstrate that analytic surfaces possessing anchoring energies within this range can be fabricated with a high level of precision (< 0.1 μJ/m2) through formation of monolayers of organothiols (with ω-functional groups corresponding to oligoethyleneglycols and amines) on gold films deposited by physical vapor deposition at oblique angles of incidence. Finally, by using the human epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) as a model protein analyte, we have characterized the influence of the anchoring energies of the surfaces on the response of the LC to the presence of surface-bound EGFR. These results, when combined with 32P-radiolabeling of the EGFR to independently quantify the surface concentration of EGFR, permit identification of surfaces that allow use of LCs to report surface densities of EGFR of 30?40 pg/mm2. Overall, the results reported in this paper guide the design of surfaces for use in LC-based analytical systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-731
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Materials and Interfaces
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 24 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Affinity microcontact printed proteins
  • Anchoring energies
  • Bioanalytical methods
  • Chemically functionalized surfaces
  • Imaging
  • Liquid crystals
  • Patterned surface chemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)


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