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Fluorescence is widely used as a sensitive detection technique for diagnostic platforms. In this programme, strategies are investigated in order to enhance the fluorescence of biosensors to increase signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and hence produce improved analyte sensitivity and lower limits of detection. The programme also includes the development of highly sensitive fibre optic sol-gel-based fluorescence sensors for in-vivo monitoring key analytes.

Key programme elements:

Signal Enhancement strategies under development include:

  • Use of high brightness silica nanoparticles for cell staining and flow cytometry
  • Exploitation of patterned metal nanostructured substrates for plasmonic enhancement for improved assays.

Sol-gel sensors

  • Development of fibre optic fluorescence-based sensors for in-vivo sensing of key analytes including O2, pH and CO2 in blood and tissue.


  • Barczak M., McDonagh C., Wencel D., Micro- and nanostructured sol-gel-based materials for optical chemical sensing (2005–2015) Microchimica Acta, Volume: 183 Issue: 7 Pages: 2085-2109, 2016

  • Nooney, R. , O'Connell, C. Roy, S., ; Boland K., Keegan G., Kelleher S., Daniels S., McDonagh C. Synthesis and characterisation of far-red fluorescent cyanine dye doped silica nanoparticles using a modified microemulsion method for application in bioassays, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, 221, 470-479, 2015

  • Nooney, R., White, A., O'Mahony, C., O’Connell C., Kelleher S., Daniels S., McDonagh C., Investigating the colloidal stability of fluorescent silica nanoparticles under isotonic conditions for biomedical applications, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 456, 50-58, 2015.

  • Kelleher S, Nooney, Flynn S., Clancy, E,. Burke, M., Daly, S., Smith, T.,J Daniels, S., McDonagh, C ., Multivalent linkers for improved covalent binding of oligonucleotides to dye-doped silica nanoparticles. Nanotechnology, 2015, 26(36) Article Number: 365703, 2015

  • Oubaha, M., Gorin, A., McDonagh, C., Copperwhite, R. Development of a multianalyte optical sol-gel biosensor for medical diagnostics, Sensors and Actuatorss B-Chemical, 221, 96-103, 2015

  • Burger, R. Kurzbuch D, Gorkin R, Kijanka G, Glynn M, McDonagh C, Ducree J, An Integrated centrifuge-opto-microfluidic platform for arraying, analysis, identification and manipulation of individual cells, Lab on a Chip, 15(2), 378-381, 2015

  • Wencel D. Abel, R. McDonagh C., Optical Chemical pH Sensors, Analytical Chemistry, 86(1), 15-29, 2014.

  • Korzeniowska B, Woolley R, deCourcey J, Wencel D, Loscher C.E, McDonagh C. Intracellular pH-sensing using core/shell silica nanoparticles. Journal of Biomedical Nanotechnology, 10(7), 1336-1345), 2014.


  • Intellectual Property information is available here.
Prof. Colette McDonagh, B.Sc, PhD

School of Physical Sciences, DCU
BDI Principal Investigator

Professor Colette McDonagh studied undergraduate physics at the National University of Ireland in Galway and was awarded a Ph.D. in Physics from Trinity College, Dublin. After postdoctoral work at Trinity College and at the Department of Applied Science at the University of California, Davis, she took up an academic position in the School of Physical Sciences at Dublin City University in 1986.

She currently holds the position of Full Professor. Prof. McDonagh leads the Optical Sensors Laboratory (OSL) in the School of Physical Sciences at DCU. She is a member of the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR) and of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI).