Label-free optical and electrical immunoassays based on lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals: Implications of real-time detection and kinetic analysis

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-1-2023


Conventional liquid crystal (LC)-based biosensors utilize predominantly thermotropic LCs as the signal-transducing media, which are less environmentally sustainable compared with lyotropic counterparts. In this study, the nematic phase of the anionic azo dye sunset yellow (SSY), a type of lyotropic chromonic liquid crystals (LCLCs), was employed in the optical and electrical biosensing of bovine serum albumin (BSA) and the cancer biomarker CA125. The optical response observed under a polarizing optical microscope was quantified by image analysis, taking advantage of the specific absorption of SSY. The electrical response derived from the dielectric spectra of SSY provided a new alternative for quantitative bioassay based on nematic LCLCs. The limit of detection (LOD) of the optical and electrical protein assay was ~10−11- and ~10−10-g/mL BSA, respectively, whereas that of the optical and electrical immunoassay was 5.97 × 10−11 and 6.02 × 10−12 g/mL for CA125, respectively. Moreover, real-time monitoring and kinetic analysis, which are hardly achievable for the hydrophobic thermotropic LCs, were demonstrated by dispersing CA125 in nematic SSY and subsequently recording the optical response over time during the specific binding between CA125 and the immobilized anti-CA125 antibody. Results from this study further the potential of nematic LCLCs in biosensing, especially in dielectric and real-time detection.