Indexed on: 24 Oct '13Published on: 24 Oct '13Published in: Nanotechnology
Biosensors are used for the detection of biochemical molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Traditional techniques, such as enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay (ELISA), are sensitive but require several hours to yield a result and usually require the attachment of a fluorophore molecule to the target molecule. Micromachined biosensors that employ electrical detection are now being developed. Here we describe one such device, which is ultrasensitive, real-time, label free and localized. It is called the nanoneedle biosensor and shows promise to overcome some of the current limitations of biosensors. The key element of this device is a 10 nm wide annular gap at the end of the needle, which is the sensitive part of the sensor. The total diameter of the sensor is about 100 nm. Any change in the population of molecules in this gap results in a change of impedance across the gap. Single molecule detection should be possible because the sensory part of the sensor is in the range of bio-molecules of interest. To increase throughput we can flow the solution containing the target molecules over an array of such structures, each with its own integrated read-out circuitry to allow 'real-time' detection (i.e. several minutes) of label free molecules without sacrificing sensitivity. To fabricate the arrays we used electron beam lithography together with associated pattern transfer techniques. Preliminary measurements on individual needle structures in water are consistent with the design. Since the proposed sensor has a rigid nano-structure, this technology, once fully developed, could ultimately be used to directly monitor protein quantities within a single living cell, an application that would have significant utility for drug screening and studying various intracellular signaling pathways.