BioNEM, University Magna Graecia of Catanzaro, Catanzaro, 88100, Italy.
Super-hydrophobic surfaces are bio-inspired interfaces with a superficial texture that, in its most common evolution, is formed by a periodic lattice of silicon micro-pillars. Similar surfaces reveal superior properties compared to conventional flat surfaces, including very low friction coefficients. In this work, we modified meso-porous silicon micro-pillars to incorporate networks of metal nano-particles into the porous matrix. In doing so, we obtained a multifunctional-hierarchical system in which (i) at a larger micrometric scale, the super-hydrophobic pillars bring the molecules dissolved in an ultralow-concentration droplet to the active sites of the device, (ii) at an intermediate meso-scale, the meso-porous silicon film adsorbs the low molecular weight content of the solution and, (iii) at a smaller nanometric scale, the aggregates of silver nano-particles would measure the target molecules with unprecedented sensitivity. In the results, we demonstrated how this scheme can be utilized to isolate and detect small molecules in a diluted solution in very low abundance ranges. The presented platform, coupled to Raman or other spectroscopy techniques, is a realistic candidate for the protein expression profiling of biological fluids.