Field-effect sensors – from pH sensing to biosensing: sensitivity enhancement using streptavidin–biotin as a model system†
Field-Effect Transistor sensors (FET-sensors) have been receiving increasing attention for biomolecular sensing over the last two decades due to their potential for ultra-high sensitivity sensing, label-free operation, cost reduction and miniaturisation. Whilst the commercial application of FET-sensors in pH sensing has been realised, their commercial application in biomolecular sensing (termed BioFETs) is hindered by poor understanding of how to optimise device design for highly reproducible operation and high sensitivity. In part, these problems stem from the highly interdisciplinary nature of the problems encountered in this field, in which knowledge of biomolecular-binding kinetics, surface chemistry, electrical double layer physics and electrical engineering is required. In this work, a quantitative analysis and critical review has been performed comparing literature FET-sensor data for pH-sensing with data for sensing of biomolecular streptavidin binding to surface-bound biotin systems. The aim is to provide the first systematic, quantitative comparison of BioFET results for a single biomolecular analyte, specifically streptavidin, which is the most commonly used model protein in biosensing experiments, and often used as an initial proof-of-concept for new biosensor designs. This novel quantitative and comparative analysis of the surface potential behaviour of a range of devices demonstrated a strong contrast between the trends observed in pH-sensing and those in biomolecule-sensing. Potential explanations are discussed in detail and surface-chemistry optimisation is shown to be a vital component in sensitivity-enhancement. Factors which can influence the response, yet which have not always been fully appreciated, are explored and practical suggestions are provided on how to improve experimental design.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Bioanalytical Sensors