Integrated Real-Time Electrochemical Molecular Sensing

Leuven - PhD
More than two weeks ago

Complement our state-of-the art optical (bio)sensing capabilities by developing a fully electrical alternative!


Traditional biomolecular tests such as ELISA for the detection of proteins, or PCR for DNA detection typically require bulky instrumentation and have response times of one hour or longer. There is an increasing trend to use the nanotechnologies that have been developed by the semiconductor industry to areas, and e.g. miniaturize and integrate sensors and tests for life sciences, bioreactors, food, or environmental studies. Recent examples at Imec include the development of a variety of waveguide-based optical detection strategies (1), or the demonstration of a chip-based PCR reactor that reduces the total PCR reaction time to less than 5 min (2).

However, optical techniques still require the integration of light sources and detectors. Electrochemical detection is an attractive fully electrical alternative, but it usually requires electrodes based on Au, Pt, or Ag that are not readily compatible with CMOS manufacturing. The goal of this PhD is to develop solutions for miniaturized CMOS-compatible electrochemical sensing. Challenges include the screening and development of CMOS-compatible faradaic electrodes, the selection of electrochemical reporter systems, the optimization of measurement protocols, the suppression of parasitics in real-life operating conditions, with the ultimate goal of achieving real-time (wash-free) operation. Electrochemical PCR (3) will be used as one of the test vehicles, but the results will enable a large range of applications such as implantable or ingestible devices, bioreactor control, or food and environmental monitoring.

The student will be embedded in the Life Sciences department, where s/he will use the experimental labs to fabricate test devices and perform experiments, and receive guidance on the application cases. In addition s/he will interact with the fab for the development of mass-manufacturable processes, and with the circuit design teams for the exploration of embedded sense amplifiers.

(1) H. Jans, Proc. SPIE Vol. 10506, 105060V (2018), doi: 10.1117/12.2288519. (2) Q. Cai, Talanta 192, 220-225 (2019), doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2018.09.041. (3) Moreau, Analyst 142, 3432 (2017), doi: 10.1039/c7an00978j.

Type of work: 20% fabrication, 40% experiments, 30% analysis, modeling, and interpretation, 10% literature and interactions

Required background: Engineering Technology, Engineering Science, Electrochemistry, Materials Science, Nanotechnology, or equivalent.

Supervisor: Liesbet Lagae

Daily advisor: Wim Van Roy

The reference code for this position is 1812-88. Mention this reference code on your application form.


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