[Illinois] How to Break the "Fundamental" Limits of Nanobiosensing

By Muhammad A. Alam

Purdue University

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As the future of Moore's law of transistor scaling appears uncertain, electronics is being reinvented by broadening the focus to other areas including macroelectronics (electronics of large, possibly flexible and transparent displays), bioelectronics (e.g., nanobio sensors for genomics, proteomics), and energy-harvesting (e.g., solar cells). In this talk, I will discuss on the essential physics of modern label-free, potentiometric and MEMS-based nanobiosensors for DNA and protein detection, and explain how the responses of classical sensors are fundamentally limited by analyte diffusion towards sensor surface, screening in salt rich environment, non-selective absorption on sensor surface, and noise floor of ultra-small sensors. I will conclude by exploring several recent innovations in material, device, and system concepts that suggest that the perceived limits are not be fundamental, but can actually be overcome by deeply insightful engineering, such as evaporation-enhanced droplet spectroscopy using super-hydrophobic electrodes, nonlinear critical point sensing in NEMFETs, and giant-Nernst response of a nanowire-nanoplate transistor pair. The models discussed in this talk can be simulated by the web-enabled software BioSensorLab and the home works associated with the Nanohub-U course "Fundamentals of Nanobiosensors".


Professor Alam teaches Electrical Engineering at Purdue University, where his research focuses on the physics, simulation, characterization and technology of classical and novel semiconductor devices. From 1995 to 2001, he was with Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, NJ, as a Member of Technical Staff in the Silicon ULSI Research Department. From 2001 to 2003, he was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Agere Systems, Murray Hill, NJ. He joined Purdue University in 2004. Dr. Alam has published over 200 papers in international journals and has presented many invited and contributed talks at international conferences. He is a fellow of IEEE, American Physical Society, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, and recipient of 2006 IEEE Kiyo Tomiyasu Award for contributions to device technology for communication systems.

Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Muhammad A. Alam (2014), "[Illinois] How to Break the "Fundamental" Limits of Nanobiosensing," http://nanohub.org/resources/20795.

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign