Porous silicon dioxide surfaces have been used for monitoring the specific affinity binding of low molecular weight molecules to streptavidin. Streptavidin was immobilized to the porous silicon dioxide surface by spontaneous adsorption at pH 7.4. Binding of biotin and an oligopeptide synthesized by means of combinatorial chemistry were monitored with an in situ null ellipsometer. Measurements were also done with hydroxy-azobenzene-2-carboxylic acid and DL-6-8-thioctic acid amide. The performance of porous silicon dioxide as a potential surface in biosensor applications was compared with a planar silicon dioxide surface. Porous silicon dioxide showed a 10-fold amplification of the response compared to planar silicon dioxide. It was possible to monitor the binding of biotin and the oligopeptide in the concentration range 2-40 microM. A response time as low as 30 s was obtained for the oligopeptide at 40 microM.