The GaInAsP semiconductor photonic crystal nanolaser operates at room temperature by photopumping and emits near-infrared light at a wavelength longer than 1.3 μm. Immersion of the nanolaser in a solution causes its laser characteristics to change. Observation of this phenomenon makes it possible to perform biosensing without a fluorescent label or a chromogenic substrate. The most common phenomenon between many photonic sensors is that the resonance wavelength reflects the refractive index of attached media; an index change of 2.5 × 10−4
in the surrounding liquid can be measured through an emission wavelength shift without stabilization. This effect is applicable to detecting environmental toxins and cell behaviors. The laser emission intensity also reflects the electric charge of surface ions. The intensity varies when an electrolyte or a negatively charged deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is positively or negatively charged in water, is accumulated on the surface. This effect allows us to detect the antigen-antibody reaction of a biomarker protein from only the emission intensity without any kind of spectroscopy. In detecting a small amount of DNA or protein, a wavelength shift also appears from its concentration that is 2–3 orders of magnitude lower than those of the conventional chemical methods, such as the enzyme-linked immuno-solvent assay. It is unlikely that this wavelength behavior at such low concentrations is due to the refractive index of the biomolecules. It is observed that the electric charge of surface ions is induced by various means, including plasma exposure and an electrochemical circuit shifting the wavelength. This suggests that the superhigh sensitivity is also due to the effect of charged ions. Thus, we call this device an iontronic photonic sensor
. This paper focuses on such a novel sensing scheme of nanolaser sensor, as an example of resonator-based photonic sensors, in addition to the conventional refractive index sensing.
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