To operate an ion-sensitive field-effect transistor (ISFETs) it is necessary to set the electrolyte potential using a reference electrode. Conventional reference electrodes are bulky, fragile, and too big for applications where the electrolyte volume is small. Several researchers have proposed tackling this issue using a solid-state planar micro-reference electrode or a reference field-effect transistor. However, these approaches are limited by poor robustness, high cost, or complex integration with other microfabrication processes. Here we report a simple method to create robust on-chip quasi-reference electrodes by electrodepositing polypyrrole on micro-patterned metal leads. The electrodes were fabricated through the polymerization of pyrrole on patterned metals with a cyclic voltammetry process. Open circuit potential measurements were performed to characterize the polypyrrole electrode performance, demonstrating good stability (±1 mV), low drift (∼1 mV h-1), and reduced pH response (5 mV per pH). In addition, the polypyrrole deposition was repeated in microelectrodes made of different metals to test compatibility with standard complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) processes. Our results suggest that nickel, a metal commonly used in semiconductor foundries for silicide formation, is a good candidate to form the polypyrrole quasi-reference electrodes. Finally, the polypyrrole microelectrodes were used to operate foundry fabricated ISFETs. These experiments demonstrated that transistors biased with polypyrrole electrodes have pH sensitivity and resolution comparable to ones that are biased with standard reference electrodes. Therefore, the simple fabrication, high compatibility, and robust electrical performance make polypyrrole an ideal choice for the fabrication of outstanding microreference electrodes that enable robust and sensitive operation of multiple ISFET sensors on a chip.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3630-3641
Number of pages12
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 21 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry

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