Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Novel Photonic Crystal Sensor

Technology #3406

Photonic crystals are optical nanostructures with periodic dielectric properties, which allow and inhibit specific wavelengths of light through their structure. This property makes photonic crystals very useful in manipulating the propagation of light for applications in photonic devices (such as diodes, reflectors, quantum dots) and sensors.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a novel detection system which uses a photonic crystal in a total internal reflection geometry (PC-TIR), to create a unique and highly sensitive sensor.

Unique accessible configuration allows extremely sensitive detection in wide range of applications

The PC-TIR sensor allows local enhancement of fluorescent signals (20-fold higher than non photonic crystal structures) as well as the measurement of multiple fluorescent dyes (ranging wide wavelengths) without any photonic band gap inhibition. Using this sensor, the inventors have demonstrated real-time, label-free and quantitative measurement of samples with significantly improved sensitivity and stability than currently used surface plasma resonance (SPR) instruments. Further, it overcomes several disadvantages of SPR systems, by allowing sensitive measurements of small analytes (~1000 Da) with no mass transport limitations. The PC-TIR configuration results in an accessible and open detection interface, which facilitates integration of such sensors into a wide range of applications including biomolecular interaction assays and ultrasonic detection.


  • Sensor to detect and study biomolecular interactions as well as perform kinetic analysis
  • Sensor to detect ultrasound; allows integration of strong ultrasound generators with sensitive acoustic receivers
  • Independent determination of refractive index and thickness of sample layers


  • Enhanced fluorescence signal emission
  • Significantly improved sensitivity and stability compared to current SPR systems
  • Overcomes disadvantages of SPR systems (mass transport limitations and small analyte detection)
  • Real-time and label-free quantitative sample measurement