Quantification of Metabolic Products from Microbial Hosts in Complex Media Using Optically Diffracting Hydrogels

Sukwon Jung, Kelsey MacConaghy, Michael T. Guarnieri, Joel L. Kaar, Mark P. Stoykovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus Citations


We herein describe a highly versatile platform approach for the in situ and real-time screening of microbial biocatalysts for enhanced production of bioproducts using photonic crystal hydrogels. This approach was demonstrated by preparing optically diffracting films based on polymerized N-isopropylacrylamide that contracted in the presence of alcohols and organic acids. The hydrogel films were prepared in a microwell plate format, which allows for high-throughput screening, and characterized optically using a microwell plate reader. While demonstrating the ability to detect a broad range of relevant alcohols and organic acids, we showed that the response of the films correlated strongly with the octanol-water partition coefficient (log P) of the analyte. Differences in the secretion of ethanol and succinic acid from strains of Zymomonas mobilis and Actinobacillus succinogenes, respectively, were further detected via optical characterization of the films. These differences, which in some cases were as low as ∼3 g/L, were confirmed by high-performance liquid chromatography, thereby demonstrating the sensitivity of this approach. Our findings highlight the potential utility of this multiplexed approach for the detection of small organic analytes in complex biological media, which overcomes a major challenge in conventional optical sensing methods.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1252-1258
Number of pages7
JournalACS Applied Bio Materials
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society. All rights reserved.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-82098


  • crystalline colloidal array
  • ethanol
  • genome engineering
  • metabolic engineering
  • organic acids
  • photonic crystal
  • synthetic biology


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