Chirality sensing is a very challenging task. Here, we report a method for ultrasensitive detection of chiral molecule l/d-carnitine based on changes in the recognition tunneling current across self-assembled core-satellite gold nanoparticle (GNP) networks. The recognition tunneling technique has been demonstrated to work at the single molecule level where the binding between the reader molecules and the analytes in a nanojunction. This process was observed to generate a unique and sensitive change in tunneling current, which can be used to identify the analytes of interest. The molecular recognition mechanism between amino acid l-cysteine and l/d-carnitine has been studied with the aid of SERS. The different binding strength between homo- or heterochiral pairs can be effectively probed by the copper ion replacement fracture. The device resistance was measured before and after the sequential exposures to l/d-carnitine and copper ions. The normalized resistance change was found to be extremely sensitive to the chirality of carnitine molecule. The results suggested that a GNP networks device optimized for recognition tunneling was successfully built and that such a device can be used for ultrasensitive detection of chiral molecules.
Keywords: biosensors; chiral molecule differentiation; chiral sensing; core satellite GNPs; molecular electronics; tunneling current recognition.