Original Article

Citation: Light: Science & Applications (2015) 4, e280; doi:10.1038/lsa.2015.53
Published online 31 July 2015

Ultrafast photonic PCR

Jun Ho Son1,2, Byungrae Cho1,2, SoonGweon Hong1,2, Sang Hun Lee1,2, Ori Hoxha1, Amanda J Haack1 and Luke P Lee1,2,3,4

  1. 1Department of Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  2. 2Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  3. 3Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
  4. 4Biophysics Graduate Program, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Correspondence: LP Lee, Department of Bioengineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. E-mail: lplee@berkeley.edu

Received 17 November 2014; Revised 21 January 2015; Accepted 28 January 2015



Nucleic acid amplification and quantification via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one of the most sensitive and powerful tools for clinical laboratories, precision medicine, personalized medicine, agricultural science, forensic science and environmental science. Ultrafast multiplex PCR, characterized by low power consumption, compact size and simple operation, is ideal for timely diagnosis at the point-of-care (POC). Although several fast/ultrafast PCR methods have been proposed, the use of a simple and robust PCR thermal cycler remains challenging for POC testing. Here, we present an ultrafast photonic PCR method using plasmonic photothermal light-to-heat conversion via photon–electron–phonon coupling. We demonstrate an efficient photonic heat converter using a thin gold (Au) film due to its plasmon-assisted high optical absorption (approximately 65% at 450 nm, the peak wavelength of heat source light-emitting diodes (LEDs)). The plasmon-excited Au film is capable of rapidly heating the surrounding solution to over 150 °C within 3 min. Using this method, ultrafast thermal cycling (30 cycles; heating and cooling rate of 12.79±0.93 °C s−1 and 6.6±0.29 °C s−1, respectively) from 55 °C (temperature of annealing) to 95 °C (temperature of denaturation) is accomplished within 5 min. Using photonic PCR thermal cycles, we demonstrate here successful nucleic acid (λ-DNA) amplification. Our simple, robust and low cost approach to ultrafast PCR using an efficient photonic-based heating procedure could be generally integrated into a variety of devices or procedures, including on-chip thermal lysis and heating for isothermal amplifications.


genomics; light-emitting diodes (LEDs); molecular diagnostics; personalized medicine; plasmonics; point-of-care (POC) diagnostics; polymerase chain reaction (PCR)