Bioinspired optical antennas: Gold plant viruses

Soon Gweon Hong, Mi Yeon Lee, Andrew O. Jackson, Luke P. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The ability to capture the chemical signatures of biomolecules (i.e., electron-transfer dynamics) in living cells will provide an entirely new perspective on biology and medicine. This can be accomplished using nanoscale optical antennas that can collect, resonate and focus light from outside the cell and emit molecular spectra. Here, we describe biologically inspired nanoscale optical antennas that utilize the unique topologies of plant viruses (and thus, are called gold plant viruses) for molecular fingerprint detection. Our electromagnetic calculations for these gold viruses indicate that capsid morphologies permit high amplification of optical scattering energy compared to a smooth nanosphere. From experimental measurements of various gold viruses based on four different plant viruses, we observe highly enhanced optical cross-sections and the modulation of the resonance wavelength depending on the viral morphology. Additionally, in label-free molecular imaging, we successfully obtain higher sensitivity (by a factor of up to 106) than can be achieved using similar-sized nanospheres. By virtue of the inherent functionalities of capsids and the plasmonic characteristics of the gold layer, a gold virus-based antenna will enable cellular targeting, imaging and drug delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere267
JournalLight: Science and Applications
Issue number3
StatePublished - 27 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Grants AFOSR FA2386-13-1-4120.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 CIOMP. All rights reserved.


  • Molecular sensor
  • Nanophotonics
  • Optical antenna
  • Optical spectroscopy
  • Plant virus
  • Plasmonic resonant energy transfer (PRET)
  • Plasmonics
  • Surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)


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