A Photonic Crystal Protein Hydrogel Sensor for Candida albicans

Zhongyu Cai, Daniel H. Kwak, David Punihaole, Zhenmin Hong, Sachin S. Velankar, Xinyu Liu, Sanford A. Asher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

157 Scopus citations


We report two-dimensional (2D) photonic crystal (PC) sensing materials that selectively detect Candida albicans (C. albicans). These sensors utilize Concanavalin A (Con A) protein hydrogels with a 2D PC embedded on the Con A protein hydrogel surface, that multivalently and selectively bind to mannan on the C. albicans cell surface to form crosslinks. The resulting crosslinks shrink the Con A protein hydrogel, reduce the 2D PC particle spacing, and blue-shift the light diffracted from the PC. The diffraction shifts can be visually monitored, measured with a spectrometer, or determined from the Debye diffraction ring diameter. Our unoptimized hydrogel sensor has a detection limit of around 32 CFU/mL for C. albicans. This sensor distinguishes between C. albicans and those microbes devoid of cell-surface mannan such as the gram-negative bacterium E. coli. This sensor provides a proof-of-concept for utilizing recognition between lectins and microbial cell surface carbohydrates to detect microorganisms in aqueous environments. A con trick: Two-dimensional arrays of photonic crystals (PCs) embedded on Concanavalin A protein hydrogel surfaces can be used to selectively detect Candida albicans by multivalently and selectively binding to mannan on the cell surface. The resulting crosslinking shrinks the protein hydrogel to reduce the 2D particle spacing, and blue-shift the light diffracted from the PC (see figure). The sensor can distinguish between C. albicans and E. coli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13036-13040
Number of pages5
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number44
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.


  • gels
  • microbes
  • photonic crystals
  • proteins
  • sensors


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