We show that the artificial resonances of dielectric optical cavities can be used to enhance the detection sensitivity of evanescent-wave optical fluorescence biosensors to the binding of a labeled analyte with a biospecific monolayer. Resonant coupling of power into the optical cavity allows for efficient use of the long photon lifetimes (or equivalently, the high internal power) of the high-Q whispering gallery modes to increase the probability of photon absorption into the fluorophore, thereby enhancing fluorescence emission. A method to compare the intrinsic sensitivity between resonant cavity and waveguide formats is also developed. Using realistic estimates for dielectric cylindrical cavities in both bulk and integrated configurations, we can expect sensitivity enhancement by at least an order of magnitude over standard waveguide evanescent sensors of equivalent sensing geometries. In addition, the required sample volume can be reduced significantly. The cylindrical cavity format is compatible with a large variety of sensing modalities such as immunoassay and molecular diagnostic assay.
© 2001 Optical Society of AmericaPDF Article