Ultra-sensitive electrical biosensor unlocks potential for instant diagnostic devices

This is a schematic of a Tunnel-FET biosensor proposed by UCSB researchers and its band diagram illustrating band-to-band-tunnelling triggered by biomolecule conjugation. Credit: Peter Allen, UCSB

A new quantum mechanical-based biosensor designed by a team at University of California, Santa Barbara offers tremendous potential for detecting biomolecules at ultra-low concentrations, from instant point-of-care disease diagnostics, to detection of trace substances for forensics and security.

Kaustav Banerjee, director of the Nanoelectronics Research Lab and professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCSB, and PhD student Deblina Sarkar have have proposed a methodology for beating the fundamental limits of a conventional Field-Effect-Transistor (FET) by designing a Tunnel-FET (T-FET) sensor that is faster and four orders of magnitude more sensitive. The details of their study appeared in the April 2, 2012 issue of the journal Applied Physics Letters.

“This study establishes the foundation for a new generation of ultra-sensitive biosensors that expand opportunities for detection of biomolecules at extremely low concentrations,” said Samir Mitragotri, professor of Chemical Engineering and director of the Center for Bioengineering at UCSB. “Detection and diagnostics are a key area of bioengineering research at UCSB and this study represents an excellent example of UCSB’s multi-faceted competencies in this exciting field.”

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