High-k dielectric Al2O3 nanowire and nanoplate field effect sensors for improved pH sensing

Bobby Reddy, Brian R. Dorvel, Jonghyun Go, Pradeep R. Nair, Oguz H. Elibol, Grace M. Credo, Jonathan S. Daniels, Edmond K C Chow, Xing Su, Madoo Varma, Muhammad A. Alam, Rashid Bashir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last decade, field-effect transistors (FETs) with nanoscale dimensions have emerged as possible label-free biological and chemical sensors capable of highly sensitive detection of various entities and processes. While significant progress has been made towards improving their sensitivity, much is yet to be explored in the study of various critical parameters, such as the choice of a sensing dielectric, the choice of applied front and back gate biases, the design of the device dimensions, and many others. In this work, we present a process to fabricate nanowire and nanoplate FETs with Al 2O3 gate dielectrics and we compare these devices with FETs with SiO2 gate dielectrics. The use of a high-k dielectric such as Al2O3 allows for the physical thickness of the gate dielectric to be thicker without losing sensitivity to charge, which then reduces leakage currents and results in devices that are highly robust in fluid. This optimized process results in devices stable for up to 8 h in fluidic environments. Using pH sensing as a benchmark, we show the importance of optimizing the device bias, particularly the back gate bias which modulates the effective channel thickness. We also demonstrate that devices with Al 2O3 gate dielectrics exhibit superior sensitivity to pH when compared to devices with SiO2 gate dielectrics. Finally, we show that when the effective electrical silicon channel thickness is on the order of the Debye length, device response to pH is virtually independent of device width. These silicon FET sensors could become integral components of future silicon based Lab on Chip systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-344
Number of pages10
JournalBiomedical microdevices
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Biasing
  • Biosensor
  • Dielectric
  • Nanowire
  • pH sensing
  • Sensitivity
  • Width

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'High-k dielectric Al2O3 nanowire and nanoplate field effect sensors for improved pH sensing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this