Posted in | News | Nanosensors | Nanomaterials

A*Star Takes Lead in Establishing Design Principles for Nanowire Sensors

Due to their demonstrated ability to detect biomolecules with exceptional sensitivity, silicon nanowire sensors are widely acknowledged as the most promising means of realising systems capable of providing rapid, low-cost and high-throughput analyses of biological processes.

Yet the principles governing their design are still unclear today, hampering further efforts at design optimisation. This is set to change, as the Institute of Microelectronics (IME), an institute of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois) have entered into a research collaboration focussed on identifying and defining the ground rules for the systematic optimisation of nanowire sensor design as well as the techniques for batch fabrication. The resultant discoveries will pave the way for improved nanosensor stability and device reproducibility — taking the technology a decisive step closer to commercialisation.

The partnership will see IME employing its well-established platform technology for fabricating top-down silicon-based nanowire field-effect transistor (FET) sensors and FET nanoplate arrays designed by Illinois. The devices will be fabricated at IME’s 8-inch CMOS (Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) and MEMS (Micro-electro-mechanical Systems) fabrication facility. As a means of testing their performance, these devices will be used to detect cancer protein biomarkers, with an eye on eventually utilising them in point-of-care diagnostic systems — an area of application in which nanosensors are expected to have revolutionary ramifications.

“Despite the technological advances made to nanowire sensors in recent times, a number of critical unknowns remain, such as the influence of the surrounding environment and electrostatic screening on nanowire sensor performance,” said Dr. Chen Yu, principal investigator for IME’s Bioelectronics Programme. "Our collaboration with Illinois will seek to provide the answers to all the lingering questions about nanowire sensor design and fabrication that have thus far hindered the research community's attempts at achieving consistent and reproducible results."

“The interdisciplinary nature of cancer nanotechnology makes selecting a research partner a tenuous affair, as few R&D establishments possess the necessary breadth and depth of expertise and capabilities,” said Illinois’ principal investigator for this project, Professor Rashid Bashir from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering & Bioengineering. “IME came immediately to mind because of the field-leading research it conducts through its Bioelectronics Programme, as well as its world-class silicon fabrication process capabilities and staff of full-time researchers with industry-proven experience.”

“The pace of decentralisation in the healthcare industry has turned point-of-care diagnostics into one of the fastest-growing areas in healthcare today, a market expected to be worth over USD 22.5 billion in 2013[1],” said Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, Executive Director of IME. “The fact that nanoscale biosensors are increasingly viewed as pivotal components of point-of-care systems bears testament to the tremendous promise and commercial potential of the research we have jointly undertaken with Illinois.”

1. Source: Overview for SMi's 7th annual Point of Care Diagnostics: Market Adoption and Technology Trends conference;

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