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Gold Nanoparticle Applications

Diagnostic Applications

Gold nanopaticles are readily conjugated to antibodies and other proteins due to the affinity of sulfhydyl (-SH) groups for the gold surface, and gold-biomolecule conjugates have been widely incorporated into diagnostic applications, where their bright red color is used in home and point-of-care tests such as lateral flow assays.  

Biomedical Applications

Gold nanomaterials can be conjugated to biomolecules to specifically target cancer cells, and used for photothermal cancer therapy, where their tunable optical properties cause them to convert laser light into heat and selectively kill cancerous cells.   


Gold nanoparticles have unique optical properties because they support surface plasmons. At specific wavelengths of light the surface plasmons are driven into resonance and strongly absorb or scatter incident light. This effect is so strong that it allows for individual nanoparticles as small as 30 nm in diameter to be imaged using a conventional dark field microscope.  This strong coupling of metal nanostructures with light is the basis for the new field of plasmonics.  Applications of plasmonic gold nanoparticles include biomedical labels, sensors, and detectors. The gold plasmon resonance is also the basis for enhanced spectroscopy techniques such as Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) and Surface Enhanced Fluoressence Spectroscopy which can be used to detect analytes with ultrahigh sensitivity.