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Nonlinear biosensing via dielectric nano-antennas S&T8

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Study mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Starting: 2022
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Fully-funded


NTU's Fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme 2022

Project ID: S&T8

Technologies facilitating diagnostics, drug discovery, and food safety are of great interest and importance to people's daily lives. Biosensing via nanoscale antennas is one important branch of these technologies [1-3]. Metallic nanoantennas have been proved as versatile tools for  detecting biomolecular interactions occurring at the nanostrucures’ surface in real-time. Such nanoantennas  have been widely used for label-free biological and chemical sensing. The presence of bio-chemical molecules on nanostructures can lead to a dramatic change in the optical scattering of the local area [1]. However, metallic nanoantennas aborb a large amount of light and convert it to heat. Such a characteristic significantly restrict their applications, as they may harm the living organisms.

Dielectric nanostructures, on the other hand, lead a new branch of nanophotonics due to their low optical losses and their compatibility for full-functional photonic circuitry [4,5]. By carefuly desiging dielectric optical nanoantennas, even small volumes of biological molecules can provide a sizeable change in the optical properties within the antenna, which will be further revealed by the scattered fields and radiation patterns.

The nonlinear optical process allows converting electromagnetic radiation to a different color of light, thus can provide a background-noise-free sensing environment [6]. Furthermore, the nonlinear optical signal enables a narrower spectrum than the corresponding linear light spectrum due to the second- or third-order dependence of the nonlinear signal on the incident light intensity. This project will combine nonlinear nanophotonics with biosensing technology to develop a new type of nonlinear biosensors based on dielectric nanoantennas. By characterising the scattered field and emission pattern variations, the nonlinear biosensors will retrieve detailed information about the biological sample with high sensitivity.

Specifically, this project aims to address the following challenges step by step:

1. Develop a new generation of on-chip nonlinear biosensors with enhanced performance based on high-finesse dielectric optical nanoantennas.

2. Investigate optical interactions in nanostructures surrounded by biological molecules, integrated with newly developed materials, such as graphene, for developing next-generation single-molecule sensing techniques.


[1] Cuifeng Ying, et al. arXiv preprint arXiv:2107.06407 (2021).

[2] Cuifeng Ying, et al. ACS nano 12.11 (2018): 11458-11470.

[3] Cuifeng Ying, et al. Applied Physics Letters 109.6 (2016): 063105.

[4] Lei Xu, et al. Light: Science & Applications 7.1 (2018): 1-8.

[5] Lei Xu, et al. Advanced Photonics 2.2 (2020): 026003.

[6] Lei Xu, et al. ACS nano 14.2 (2019): 1379-1389.

Supervisory Team

Lei Xu:

Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at Department of Engineering in School of Science & Technology.

Dr Lei Xu obtained his PhD (2014) in Optics from Nankai University, China. Since then, he has been performing research and engineering activities in different universities: Nankai University, The Australian National University and the University of New South Wales. His research interests are linear and nonlinear nanophotonics, optoelectronics meta-devices, low carbon technologies (i.e. solar energy harvesting, as well as innovative radiative cooling for energy saving), and bio-photonics (i.e. tissue engineering via light, and wearable optical sensors).

Cuifeng Ying:

Senior Lecturer in Electrical Engineering at the Department of Engineering in the School of Science and Technology.

Dr. Cuifeng Ying received her Ph.D. in Photonics from Nankai University. Her expertise is in employing nanoscale structures to enhance fluorescent signals for biosensing applications down to the single molecule level. Her career was followed by postdoctoral appointment at the Adolphe Merkle Institute at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Her current research is focused on characterising single proteins using nanopore technology and plasmonic nanostructures.

School strategic research priority

This project will enable the ability to generate ultra-thin sensing devices via advanced nanoscale materials. It permits extracting critical information from biological tissues for the quest for an understanding of health, disease and prevention. Furthermore, it stimulates the innovation of wearable medical technologies and next-generation medical diagnostic tools in the future. Thus it aligns well with the School strategic research priorities: Medical Technologies and Advanced Materials, Health and Wellbeing. Specifically, it aligns perfectly with the following Research Centres:

Entry qualifications

For the eligibility criteria, visit our studentship application page.

How to apply

For guidance and to make an application, please visit our studentship application page. The application deadline is Friday 14 January 2022.

Fees and funding

This is part of NTU's 2022 fully-funded PhD Studentship Scheme.

Guidance and support

Download our full applicant guidance notes for more information.

Still need help?

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