Silicon nanowire field-effect transistors for the detection of proteins
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In this dissertation I present results on our efforts to increase the sensitivity and selectivity of silicon nanowire ion-sensitive field-effect transistors for the detection of biomarkers, as well as a novel method for wireless power transfer based on metamaterial rectennas for their potential use as implantable sensors. The sensing scheme is based on changes in the conductance of the semiconducting nanowires upon binding of charged entities to the surface, which induces a field-effect. Monitoring the differential conductance thus provides information of the selective binding of biological molecules of interest to previously covalently linked counterparts on the nanowire surface. In order to improve on the performance of the nanowire sensing, we devised and fabricated a nanowire Wheatstone bridge, which allows canceling out of signal drift due to thermal fluctuations and dynamics of fluid flow. We showed that balancing the bridge significantly improves the signal-to-noise ratio. Further, we demonstrated the sensing of novel melanoma biomarker TROY at clinically relevant concentrations and distinguished it from nonspecific binding by comparing the reaction kinetics. For increased sensitivity, an amplification method was employed using an enzyme which catalyzes a signal-generating reaction by changing the redox potential of a redox pair. In addition, we investigated the electric double layer, which forms around charges in an electrolytic solution. It causes electrostatic screening of the proteins of interest, which puts a fundamental limitation on the biomarker detection in solutions with high salt concentrations, such as blood. We solved the coupled Nernst-Planck and Poisson equations for the electrolyte under influence of an oscillating electric field and discovered oscillations of the counterion concentration at a characteristic frequency. In addition to exploring different methods for improved sensing capabilities, we studied an innovative method to supply power to implantable biosensors wirelessly, eliminating the need for batteries. A metamaterial split ring resonator is integrated with a rectifying circuit for efficient conversion of microwave radiation to direct electrical power. We studied the near-field behavior of this rectenna with respect to distance, polarization, power, and frequency. Using a 100 mW microwave power source, we demonstrated operating a simple silicon nanowire pH sensor with light indicator.