Molecularly imprinted nanospheres obtained by miniemulsion polymerization have been applied as the sensitive layer for label-free direct optical sensing of small molecules. Using these particles as the sensitive layer allowed for improving response times in comparison to sensors using MIP layers. As a model compound, well-characterized nanospheres imprinted against l-Boc-phenylalanine anilide (l-BFA) were chosen. For immobilization, a simple concept based on electrostatic adsorption was used, showing its applicability to different types of surfaces, leading to a good surface coverage. The sensor showed short response times, good selectivity, and high reversibility with a limit of detection down to 60 μM and a limit of quantitation of 94 μM. Furthermore, reproducibility, selectivity, and long-term stability of the sensitive layers were tested. The best results were achieved with an adsorption on aminopropylsilane layers, showing a chip-to-chip reproducibility of 22%. Furthermore, the sensors showed no loss in signal after a storage time of 1 year.
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The work presented in this paper was funded by the “Biomimetischer Prozesssensor” research project funded by the Ministry of Science and Culture (Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur), Baden Württemberg.