Single-Course English 5 ECTS

Optical biosensors

Overall Course Objectives

Optical biosensors cover a wide gamut of applications ranging from simple test kits used by general practitioners to complex analytical devices used in life science and biomedical applications. The objective of this course is to make the student capable of analyzing the optical and biomedical aspects of these sensors. Furthermore, issues pertaining to specificity, sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio (limit of detection) of such sensors will be discussed during the course. It is also the objective of this course to enable the student to assess which optical biosensor design(s) can be implemented for a given sensing application, based on the analysis of the interplay between materials, components, systems and signal processing in the field of optical biosensing.

Learning Objectives

  • describe the basic optical properties, such as total internal reflection (TIR), refraction, diffraction, dispersion, and interference used in optical biosensors.
  • describe the theory of optical waveguides, luminescence spectroscopy, Raman Effect and surface plasmons used in optical biosensors.
  • explain how the choice of detection chemistry, e.g., immunochemistry, and optical sensing principle determine the specificity, sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratio
  • classify different fluid handling methods according to use situation.
  • assess which factors contribute to false-positive and false-negative response of optical biosensors.
  • relate label-free detection methods like Raman spectroscopy to affinity based sensing principles like immunosensors.
  • evaluate different optical principles used in optical biosensors.
  • determine the user interface required to make a sensing method useful in a clinical/life science setting.
  • argue the applicability of a specific optical sensor technology to a given sensing problem.
  • assess scientific papers within the topical areas of the course, evaluate the presented choice of technology and, if applicable, propose alternative approaches.

Course Content

The course will cover the biological background for affinity-based reactions that are the backbone in most optical biosensors based on evanescent sensing in waveguide geometries. This also includes surface plasmon resonance (SPR) based sensors. The principles of luminescent sensing covering both spectral and lifetime-based methods will be covered. A number of optical biosensors used for life science, clinical as well as R&D purposes will be discussed.
An integral part of the course is that students present scientific papers in journal clubs. Throughout the course, practical examples and demonstrations will be used whenever possible. We will also visit companies manufacturing optical biosensors to observe how the theory acquired throughout course is put into work in real life applications. The purpose of these company visits is to make the students acquainted with how the companies evaluate the applicability and feasibility of an optical biosensor before going to production. The regulatory issues pertaining to optical biosensors will also be a part of the company visit.

Recommended prerequisites

34430, Basic courses in mathematics and physics

Teaching Method

Lectures and journal clubs



Lecturers from DTU Fotonik, DTU Health Tech and a number of invited external lectures.

See course in the course database.





13 weeks


Health Tech


DTU Lyngby Campus

Course code 22512
Course type Candidate
Semester start Week 35
Semester end Week 48
Days Wed 8-12

7.500,00 DKK