Fluorescent Nanoparticle Adhesion Assay: a Novel Method for Surface pK(a) Determination of Self-Assembled Monolayers on Silicon Surfaces

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Langmuir , Volume 28, Number 7, pp. 3403-11 (2012)


1520-5827 (Electronic)07

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Since the computer industry enables us to generate smaller and smaller structures, silicon surface chemistry is becoming increasingly important for (bio-)analytical and biological applications. For controlling the binding of charged biomacromolecules such as DNA and proteins on modified silicon surfaces, the surface pK(a) is an important factor. Here we present a fluorescent nanoparticle adhesion assay as a novel method to determine the surface pK(a) of silicon surfaces modified with weak acids or bases. This method is based upon electrostatic interactions between the modified silicon surface and fluorescent nanoparticles with an opposite charge. Silicon slides were modified with 3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane (APTES) and were further derivatized with succinic anhydride. Layer thickness of these surfaces was determined by ellipsometry. After incubating the surfaces with an amine-reactive fluorescent dye, fluorescence microscopy revealed that the silicon surfaces were successfully modified with amine- and carboxyl-groups. Two surface pK(a) values were found for APTES surfaces by the fluorescent nanoparticle adhesion assay. The first surface pK(a) (6.55 +/- 0.73) was comparable with the surface pK(a) obtained by contact angle titration (7.3 +/- 0.8), and the second surface pK(a) (9.94 +/- 0.19) was only found by using the fluorescent nanoparticle adhesion assay. The surface pK(a) of the carboxyl-modified surface by the fluorescent nanoparticle adhesion assay (4.37 +/- 0.59) did not significantly differ from that found by contact angle titration (5.7 +/- 1.4). In conclusion, we have developed a novel method to determine the surface pK(a) of modified silicon surfaces: the fluorescent nanoparticle adhesion assay. This method may provide a useful tool for designing pH-dependent electrostatic protein and particle binding/release and to design surfaces with a pH-dependent surface charge for (bio-)analytical lab-on-a-chip devices or drug delivery purposes.