Gold Nanoparticle Biosensors


Executive Summary

Harmful microbes are present in a variety of sources including water, food, plants, and through human-to-human transmission. The ability to detect them rapidly at low cost is important to protecting the health and safety of humans and animals and the security of food chains. MSU researchers have developed novel gold (Au) nanoparticle biosensors for rapid sensing of bacteria, proteins, viruses in a variety of media. The biosensors can be used in a variety of application settings without the need for pre-purification, lengthy culturing, and amplification. The particles can be functionalized to bind to targets  of interest (cells, proteins, DNA, or RNA) and easily detected by electronic, optical and molecular recognition techniques.


Description of Technology

This  technology covers a suite of inventions relating to gold (Au) nanoparticles (a.k.a. Au NP) and a one pot method of making them and their use. The nanoparticles are made at neutral or low pH in the presence of a carbohydrate such as an oligosaccharide or dextrin. The process leads to controlled particle growth, uniform and small particles ranging from 8 to 50 nm. The nanoparticles are functionalized with thiol and receptors, such as proteins, antibodies, and oligonucleotide probes. In some cases, the core of the particle may contain a magnetic material. Upon mixing with the media containing the target analyte, the functionalized Au NP’s bind to target analytes. Magnetic Au NP’s – bound to target analytes may be selectively separated with a magnet to concentrate them. Non magnetic Au NP’s – bound to target analytes can also be concentrated in the same manner, by the addition of additional functionalized magnetic NP’s. The concentrated Au NP – target analyte complex can be conveniently detected by electronic, optical or molecular recognition techniques.


The technique can identify the presence of bacteria, proteins and virus as separate types of microbes or can identify specific species if DNA probes are used such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis or Escherichia coli.



  • Simple method of detecting the presence of bacteria, proteins and viruses present in a sample
  • Can be used on multiple media such as sputum, water, food matrixes, urine, blood
  • Eliminates pre-enrichment, purification, pre-treatment steps
  • Rapid detection. Improves diagnostic speed (less than one hour after DNA extraction of the sample)
  • Inexpensive test method



  • Disease and health monitoring
  • Food pathogen detection and monitoring of food quality
  • Environmental water monitoring
  • Agricultural disease detection (crops, plants, farm animal product and health)


Patent Status

Granted Patents US 9,581,590, US 10,203,325, US 11,221,330



Biosensors and Bioelectronics article

Biosensors article


Licensing Rights

Full licensing rights available



Dr. Evangelyn Alocilja, Dr. Edith Torres-Chavolla, Dr. Michael Anderson, Hanna Miller



TEC2011-0030, TEC2011-0111

Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Jon Debling
Technology Manager
Michigan State University