Low-temperature fabrication and characterization of a symmetric hybrid organic–inorganic slab waveguide for evanescent light microscopy
Journal article, 2018
Organic and inorganic solid materials form the building blocks for most of today's high-technological instruments and devices. However, challenges related to dissimilar material properties have hampered the synthesis of thin-film devices comprised of both organic and inorganic films. We here give a detailed description of a carefully optimized processing protocol used for the construction of a three-layered hybrid organic–inorganic waveguide-chip intended for combined scattering and fluorescence evanescent-wave microscopy in aqueous environments using conventional upright microscopes. An inorganic core layer (SiO2 or Si3N4), embedded symmetrically in an organic cladding layer (CYTOP), aids simple, yet efficient in-coupling of light, and since the organic cladding layer is refractive index matched to water, low stray-light (background) scattering of the propagating light is ensured. Another major advantage is that the inorganic core layer makes the chip compatible with multiple well-established surface functionalization schemes that allows for a broad range of applications, including detection of single lipid vesicles, metallic nanoparticles or cells in complex environments, either label-free—by direct detection of scattered light—or by use of fluorescence excitation and emission. Herein, focus is put on a detailed description of the fabrication of the waveguide-chip, together with a fundamental characterization of its optical properties and performance, particularly in comparison with conventional epi illumination. Quantitative analysis of images obtained from both fluorescence and scattering intensities from surface-immobilized polystyrene nanoparticles in suspensions of different concentrations, revealed enhanced signal-to-noise and signal-to-background ratios for the waveguide illumination compared to the epi-illumination.