Plasmonic hot spots, generated by controlled 20-nm Au nanoparticle (NP) assembly, are shown to suppress fluorescent quenching effects of metal NPs, such that hair-pin FRET (Fluorescence resonance energy transfer) probes can achieve label-free ultra-sensitive quantification. The micron-sized assembly is a result of intense induced NP dipoles by focused electric fields through conic nanocapillaries. The efficient NP aggregate antenna and the voltage-tunable NP spacing for optimizing hot spot intensity endow ultra-sensitivity and large dynamic range (fM to pM). The large shear forces during assembly allow high selectivity (2-mismatch discrimination) and rapid detection (15 min) for a DNA mimic of microRNA.

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