Photonics is a strongly growing sector of the economy and a major research area in Europe. In Thuringia and in particular in Jena, the scientific and industrial location is shaped by universities, research institutes and companies in the field of optics and photonics. While the number of young, well-trained female graduates is high, women who hold a leading position in academia and high-tech industry are still underrepresented.
The Jenaer Biochip Initiative (JBCI) work group’s research activities cover the entire analytical measurement chain – from sample preparation to detection. Both molecular biological/biochemical and spectroscopic methods are applied for detection purposes. The center of focus, for one, is the research and development of analytical methods based on surface-enhanced techniques for analytical issues for which there have, in the past, only been technologically complex and time-consuming analytical methods available. For another, particle-based and chip-based strategies for on-site diagnostics are being developed in order to be able to cost-effectively and time-efficiently detect specific and sensitive pathogens. Molecular biological methods such as, for example, qPCR or isothermal amplification and hybridization assays for the targeted identification of pathogens are used. In addition, Raman microspectroscopy, which makes it possible to detect bacteria down to the single cell level, is an important part of the method portfolio of this work group. These methods are optimized for medical, environmental, and life science issues and transferred to functional samples. In cooperation with clinical partners and partners from the environmental and food industry, these researched methods are verified and validated.
Furthermore, JBCI’s goal is to apply surface-enhancing methods such as, for example, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) or surface-enhanced IR spectroscopy (SEIRA). These methods are based on the optical properties of metal nanostructures, which make signal amplification possible by more than several orders of magnitude. The potential of these methods has been proven again and again by examples from food analysis (qualitative and quantitative analysis of both illegal and healthy substances) and the medical field (monitoring of drug levels in bodily fluids such as urine). At the same time, fundamental testing is carried out that results in the application of specially designed metal nanostructures in selected regions of the visible and infrared spectral range as a signal amplification medium. To manufacture these plasmonically active SERS and SEIRA structures, both bottom-up and top-down techniques are used.
Moreover, JBCI’s goal is to research new methodical strategies that make it possible to automate and miniaturize innovative readout concepts, as well as to integrate them into a microfluidic periphery or cartridge systems for a wide range of robust applications in the areas of medicine and the life and environmental sciences.