nanoHUB-U: Principles of Electronic Nanobiosensors

A five week course distilling the principles and physics of electronic nanobiosensors.

  1. biosensors/sensing
  2. nano/bio
  3. nanoHUB-U
  4. NCN Group - Biotechnology and Medicine
  5. sensors/sensing


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Course Objectives

This course will provide an in-depth analysis of the origin of the extra-ordinary sensitivity, fundamental limits, and operating principles of modern nanobiosensors. The primary focus will be the physics of biomolecule detection in terms of three elementary concepts: response time, sensitivity, and selectivity. And, we will use potentiometric, amperometric, and cantilever-based mass sensors to illustrate the application of these concepts to specific sensor technologies. Students of this course will not learn how to fabricate a sensor, but will be able to decide what sensor to make, appreciate their design principles, interpret measured results, and spot emerging research trends.

Who Should Take the Course

Engineers, chemists, physicists, technology developers, and product managers who have an interest in the emerging field of nanobiosensing.


Freshman/sophomore level preparation in physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics.

Course Outline

Unit 1: Introduction to Nanobiosensors/ Settling Time

  • L1.1: What are Nanobiosensors, Anyway?
  • L1.2: Basic Concepts: Biomolecules, Analyte Density, Diffusion Distances
  • L1.3: Basic Concepts: Types of Biosensors, Geometry of Biosensing
  • L2.1: Shape of a Surface
  • L2.2: Classical Sensors I
  • L2.3: Classical Sensors II

Unit 2: Setting Time

  • L2.4: Sensors with Complex Geometry
  • L2.5: Beating the Limits – Barcode Sensors
  • L2.6: Beating the Limits – Droplet Evaporation
  • L2.7: Beating the Diffusion Limit – Enhanced Diffusion and Fluid Flow
  • L2.8: First Passage and Narrow Escape Time I
  • L2.9: First Passage and Narrow Escape Time II

Unit 3: Sensitivity

  • L3.1: Nanobiosensors Sensitivity and Types of Biosensors
  • L3.2: Potentiometric Sensors: Charge Screening for a Planar Sensor
  • L3.3: Potentiometric Sensors: Charge Screening for Cylindrical Sensors
  • L3.4: Potentiometric Sensors: ISFET as a pH-Meter
  • L3.5: Potentiometric Sensors: Why are Biomolecules Charged?
  • L3.6: How to Beat Screening

Unit 4: Selectivity

  • L3.7: Amperometric Sensors – Glucose Sensor I
  • L3.8: Amperometric Sensors: Glucose Sensors II
  • L3.9: Amperometric Sensors: Beating the Diffusion Limit by Nanogap Amperometry
  • L3.10:  Cantilever-based Sensors: BasicOperation
  • L3.11: Cantilever-based Sensors: Static Response
  • L3.12: Cantilever-based Sensors: Nonlinear Sensing – Flexure FET

Unit 5: Putting the Pieces Together

  • L4.1: Introduction and Molecular Recognition
  • L4.2: Physics of Sequential Adsorption
  • L4.3: When all else fails, tag, filer and amplify
  • L4.4: Noise Tranducers
  • L5.1: Genome Sequencer I
  • L5.2: Genome Sequencer II
  • L5.3: Genome Sequencer III
  • L5.4: Concluding Thoughts

Course Resources

  • A account is required to perform the simulation exercises. Sign up for free now!
  • Prerecorded video lectures distilling the essential concepts of nanobiosensors into a concise, five-week module.
  • Homework exercises with solutions and homework tutorials.
  • Online quizzes to quickly assess understanding of material after each video lecture.
  • An online forum, hosted by nanoHUB and monitored by the professors. Students enrolled in the course will be able to interact with one another.
  • Exams for each weekly module. Once a student starts a test, the student will have two hours to complete it. The tests are scored instantly.
  • ECE 606: Principles of Semiconductor Devices is recommended if additional background on semiconductor devices is needed.

 Principles of Electronic Nanobiosensors first published on nanoHUB-U, September 2013 and edX, April 2016.


This self-paced course is available at no cost to anyone with a account.

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