|Abstract: ||The research activity described in the attached dissertation focused on the development, fabrication and characterization of field-effect transistor-based biochemical sensor (bioFET) developed in different technologies. Such a research field has been attracting a significant interest in the last decades, as electronic sensors can represent as valuable, portable and low cost alternative to the bulk, expensive laboratory instrumentation. Among the biochemical reactions, genetic processes have been thoroughly investigated in literature: in particular, DNA hybridization detection represents a basic biological reaction for several, more sophisticated analysis in medical, pharmaceutical and forensic fields.
The development of the research activity was centered on a specific biosensor, namely Charge-Modulated Field-Effect Transistor (CMFET), originally proposed in 2005 by the Electronic Department at the University of Cagliari. In particular, the aim of the activity was to make a significant step forward with respect to the results already presented in literature for DNA hybridization detection, employing two different technologies: CMOS process and organic electronics.
As regards CMOS process, the activity mainly focused on the testing of a Lab-on-a-Chip (LoC), hosting several CMFET structures, developed and fabricated before but never tested. The activity carried out allowed to develop a precise electrical model of the device, validated by actual measurements, by which the basic performances of the device were derived. Subsequently, the application of the LoC for DNA hybridization detection was demonstrated: a reliable biochemical protocol for the modification of the chip surface with DNA strands was developed, as well as a precise measurement procedure. A complete evaluation of the sensitivity and selectivity of the device with respect to DNA hybridization was obtained; from the obtained results, several consideration about the relationship between the chip layout and the performances of the device were inferred. In conclusion, a road-map for the development of a new chip, customized for the application as DNA hybridization sensor, was developed.
As regards the Organic CMFET (OCMFET), the activity comprised design, fabrication and testing of devices particularly conceived as disposable DNA hybridization sensors for field-measurement kits. Such a task required the development of innovative technological processes for the fabrication of high-performances organic transistors, i.e. transistors capable to be operated at low voltages (about 1 V) with quasi-ideal electrical performances. In particular, a highly reliable fabrication process, compatible with plastic electronics and easily up-scalable to an industrial size, was determined. Consequently, novel OCMFET were fabricated and tested. World record results in terms of sensitivity and selectivity among the organic transistor-based DNA sensors were reproducibly obtained. Thanks to the reliability of the results, the performances of the OCMFET were carefully studied, and design rules for the optimization of the device were inferred; an optimized, low voltage OCMFET allowed to further enhance the result, determining final performances even better than the one of silicon-based sensors. Finally, thanks to an innovative analysis on the influence of the device polarization to the characteristics of the bioreceptor layer at a micro-nanometrical size, a physical effect related to a tilting of the DNA molecules with respect to the surface was observed. This feature, possibly related to the CMFET working principle, can allow to overcome a general limitation of the bioFET technologies that have limited so far the application of these devices in vivo, thus opening novel possible applications for the CMFET working principle beyond the measurements in vitro|