Investigation of non-specific signals in nanoporous flow-through and flow-over based sensors
Porous materials are ideal hosts to fabricate high sensitivity devices. Their large specific area and the possibility to modify the type and the strength of the matrix–analyte interactions allow the realization of sensors with finely tailored characteristics. In this article, we investigate how mass transport across the nanoporous structure influences the response due to the non-specific signal by comparing flow-through versus flow-over geometries. We observed a systematic overestimation of the sensitivity for porous substrate devices made of closed-ended pores compared with open-ended pore ones. Our analysis shows that such an effect is due to (unbound) analytes or contaminants that remain trapped within the pores and are not removed by rinsing of the sample. This result was verified by measuring similar samples in both flow through and flow over configurations, as well as their residual response after blockage of all their active sites. We also notice that sensors based on free-standing membranes show similar results independent of the fact that mass transport is induced by either an external pressure source or simply by Brownian motions.