The alarming increase in the amount of dangerous pesticides such as atrazine in agricultural fields and drinking water is driving the growth of new technologies to detect these toxins well below their threat level. The recent elucidation of microcantilever nanomechanical bending in response to chemical and biomolecular interactions has added another significant facet to biochemical engineering research and has fostered the development of a variety of signal detection paradigms, at both the microscale and the nanoscale. We report the label-free detection of highly specific atrazine antibody-antigen interactions at the nanometer scale on microcantilevers, with 1 ppt (past per trillion) sensitivity. The chemical interaction-induced deflection of the cantilever beam reflects the interplay between the strain energy increase of the cantilever and the free energy reduction of the reaction, providing a unique system for investigating the connection between the nanomechanics and the chemistry of antibody-antigen interaction at picomolar concentration with nanometer resolution. Cantilevers were functionalized with highly specific and site-directed anti-atrazine antibodies and exposed to target antigen over a wide range of concentration from 4.65 pM to 46.5 μM of varying sequence in static and flow conditions. Antibody-antigen interaction of atrazine with the specific antibody resulted in net negative deflection of the cantilever. The results show that high specificity and site-directed antibody immobilization lead to ultra-high sensitivity detection of atrazine. The measurements provide results within minutes at the picomolar level, and exhibit high target specificity. This qualifies the technology as a rapid method to validate organic toxins and its progression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Materials Science(all)
- Mechanics of Materials
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering