The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of biological sensors that can rapidly and accurately detect tiny amounts of DNA without having to use amplification techniques such as PCR.
Researchers at imec in Leuven, Belgium, have developed a finFET transistor that can be used as a biological sensor. The 'bioFET' has fin width of 13nm and 50nm gate length and, importantly, was fabricated in a CMOS-compatible process in IMEC's 300mm wafer clean room. This is a key development as it would allow a bioFET array to be integated into a single chip sensor on a high volume process that would make it low cost enough to be disposable.
The current bioFET has a demonstrated detection limit of tens of molecules and the lab says is working towards the detection of single DNA molecules. The device works by allowing biomolecules to bind to the chemically modified dielectric surface of the gate. This alters the threshold voltage resulting in a measurable signal. Such transistors have been developed in the past but at larger scale using planar semiconductor manufacturing.
The combination of the 3D surface to improve the sensitivity of the bioFET and the standard 300mm CMOS manufacturing has opened up prospects for a variery of biosensing applications including DNA, protein, virus detection and pH sensing.
imec researchers predict he detection of a single molecule of DNA is possible with a signal-to-noise ratio of >5 with sub-70nm finFETs.
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