There is nowadays a growing need for sensing devices offering rapid and portable analytical functionality in real-time as well as massively parallel capabilities with very high sensitivity at the molecular level. Such devices are essential to facilitate research and foster advances in fields such as drug discovery, proteomics, medical diagnostics, systems biology or environmental monitoring.
In this context, an ideal solution is an ion-sensitive field-effect transistor sensor platform based on silicon nanowires to be integrated in a CMOS architecture. Indeed, in addition to the expected high sensitivity and superior signal quality, such nanowire sensors could be mass manufactured at reasonable costs, and readily integrated into electronic diagnostic devices to facilitate bed-site diagnostics and personalized medicine. Moreover, their small size makes them ideal candidates for future implanted sensing devices. While promising biosensing experiments based on silicon nanowire field-effect transistors have been reported, real-life applications still require improved control, together with a detailed understanding of the basic sensing mechanisms. For instance, it is crucial to optimize the geometry of the wire, a still rather unexplored aspect up to now, as well as its surface functionalization or its selectivity to the targeted analytes.
This project seeks to develop a modular, scalable and integrateable sensor platform for the electronic detection of analytes in solution. The idea is to integrate silicon nanowire field-effect transistors as a sensor array and combine them with state-of-the-art microfabricated interface electronics as well as with microfluidic channels for liquid handling. Such sensors have the potential to be mass manufactured at reasonable costs, allowing their integration as the active sensor part in electronic point-of-care diagnostic devices to facilitate, for instance, bed-side diagnostics and personalized medicine. Another important field is systems biology, where many substances need to be quantitatively detected in parallel at very low concentrations: in these situations, the platform being developed fulfills the requirements ideally and will have a strong impact and provide new insights, e.g. into the metabolic processes of cells, organisms or organs.