Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Amanda J. Haes


This dissertation evaluates how gold nanoparticle structure and local environment influence resulting sensor function when using these nanomaterials for complex sample analysis. Molecular imprinted polymers (MIPs), a class of plastic antibodies, are engineered and incorporated into these nanosensors thereby facilitating the quantitative detection of a variety of small molecules when Raman spectroscopy and surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) are used for detection. First, homogeneous seeded growth gold nanosphere synthesis is evaluated as a function of ionic double layer composition and thickness. Systematically increasing the citrate concentration during synthesis improves nanomaterial shape homogeneity; however, further elevations of citrate concentration increase the number of internal and/or external atomic defects in the nanomaterials which leads to decreasing solution-phase stability. Next, spherical gold nanoparticles are modified with self-assembled monolayer (SAM), modeled using interfacial energy calculations, and experimental characterized using transmission electron microscopy, NMR, extinction spectroscopy, zeta potential, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and flocculation studies to assess the morphology, surface chemistry, optical properties, surface charge, SAM packing density, and nanoparticle stability, respectively. The number of molecules on the nanostructures increases with increasing ionic strength (by decreasing the electrostatic interfacial energy between assembled molecules) which subsequently promotes nanoparticle stability. Third, plastic antibodies that recognize three drugs commonly used to treat migraines are engineered. These methacrylate-based MIPs are synthesized, extracted, characterized, and used to quantitatively and directly detect over-the-counter drugs in complex samples using Raman microscopy. These results along with numerical approximation methods to estimate drug binding site densities and dissociation constants with the MIPs serve as a foundation for understanding how modest recognition selectivity of MIPs coupled with shifts in the vibrational energy modes from the drugs upon hydrogen binding to the polymer backbone promote sensitive and selective drug detection in complex samples. Finally, nanomaterial incorporation into MIPs for applications in SERS-based biosensors is evaluated. Importantly, gold nanorod concentration increases the detectability of the same drugs using MIPs as pre-concentration and recognition elements. This combination of materials, theory, and applications forms a solid foundation which should aid in the design and development of MIP nanobiosensors for specific and sensitive detection of small molecules in complex matrices.


biosensor, molecular imprinted polymers, nanoparticles, Raman microscopy, self-assembled monolayer, SERS


xvi, 154 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 140-154).


Copyright 2014 Anna Allyse Volkert

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Chemistry Commons