Label-Free Detection of Escherichia Coli Based on Thermal Transport Through Surface Imprinted Polymers

Bart van Grinsven, Kasper Eersels, Onno Akkermans, Sophie Ellermann, Aleksandra Kordek, Marloes Peeters, Olivier Deschaume, Carmen Bartic, Hanne Diliën, Erik Steen Redeker, Patrick Wagner, Thomas J. Cleij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This work focuses on the development of a label-free biomimetic sensor for the specific and selective detection of bacteria. The platform relies on the rebinding of bacteria to synthetic cell receptors, made by surface imprinting of polyurethane-coated aluminum chips. The heat-transfer resistance (Rth) of these so-called surface imprinted polymers (SIPs) was analyzed in time using the heat-transfer method (HTM). Rebinding of target bacteria to the synthetic receptor led to a measurable increase in thermal resistance at the solid–liquid interface. Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus were used as model organisms for several proof-of-principle experiments, demonstrating the potential of the proposed platform for point-of-care bacterial testing. The results of these experiments indicate that the sensor is able to selectively detect bacterial rebinding to the SIP surface, distinguishing between dead and living E. coli cells on one hand and between Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria on the other hand (E. coli and S. aureus). In addition, the sensor was capable of quantifying the number of bacteria in a given sample, enabling detection at relatively low concentrations (104 CFU mL–1 range). As a first proof-of-application, the sensor was exposed to a mixed bacterial solution containing only a small amount (1%) of the target bacteria. The sample was able to detect this trace amount by using a simple gradual enrichment strategy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1140–1147
Number of pages8
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number9
Early online date19 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2016


  • surface imprinted polymers
  • heat-transfer method (HTM)
  • Escherichia coli
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • point-of-care bacterial testing


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