Decoding the Molecular Composition of an Item: A Detective’s Work!

Lit by lasers, the molecules that constitute a material emit a unique light spectrum. The analysis of this light emission makes it possible to identify the types of molecule present; this is known as spectroscopy. By combining this technique with imaging, it is possible to accurately map the molecular composition of an object.

The company Photon etc. has developed two spectroscopic imaging platforms: IMATM and RIMATM. The first studies the light signal arising from the fluorescence while the other detects the Raman signal. The latter tells us about the molecules’ vibrational transitions and though its light spectrum is weaker, it is better defined than the luminescent signal.

Concurrent with this development, the team of Professor Richard Martel of Université de Montréal developed and patented a new type of marker based on carbon nanotubes containing a dye. Markers are highly useful for observing certain microscopic objects (e.g. a protein in a cell). In fact, individually designed to attach to specific components of a sample, markers facilitate their detection by producing a specific, amplified Raman signal that makes it possible to identify dozens at a time. As a result, the speed of analysis is increased with at least a tenfold gain. Photon etc. quite naturally joined forces with Professor Martel’s group, within the framework of a NanoQuébec grant, to combine the effectiveness of RIMATM imaging with nanomarkers. This collaboration resulted in the production of a powerful platform in order to develop molecular biological diagnostic applications.