Smart electronic devices are gaining a lot of popularity in the health sector. For example, rapid measuring of biomarkers at the point-of-need or to direct therapy early on may help life or greatly improve a patient’s recovery or survival chances. Surface chemistry is widely used for the functionalization of the surface of biosensors, e.g. to produce protein resistant coatings or to covalently and site-specifically bind biomolecules. Especially in biosensor and semiconductor research in general, different materials with distinctive characteristics are used and controlling their surface properties is essential for interfacing with biology. This is not only the result of the large variety of materials used, but also scaling to miniature dimensions inherently results in an increase of surface to volume ratios.
The control of surface properties for lab-on-a-chip devices mostly relies on the liquid based deposition of organosilanes. These deposition methods, however, suffer from several drawbacks including the copolymerization of organosilanes, incomplete wetting of high aspect ratio structures, lengthy processes and high-reagent costs. In this PhD project, we propose to explore Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD), Molecular Vapor Deposition (MVD), and Molecular Layer Deposition (MLD) as novel and versatile vapor-based approaches for the conformal coating of biosensor devices and microfluidic channels. To support these novel methods, an experimental ALD/MLD reactor at UGent equipped with in-situ characterization and a recent MVD vacuum oven in-house developed at imec are at hand. During this PhD, both process conditions and hardware will require optimization to enable the vapor phase deposition of a functional coating for the covalent binding of biomolecules and of an antifouling coating to resist non-specific protein adsorption. Both these vapor phase coatings will be needed for the development of rapid and quantitative point-of-care tests and, besides basic research, will pave a path towards surface modification at an industrial level.
Type of work: 10% literature study, 50% experimental work, 30% simulation, characterization and hardware optimization, 10% publication and related activities.
Supervisor: Philippe Vereecken (imec) and Christophe Detavernier (UGent)
Daily advisor: Rita Vos, Tim Stakenborg
When you apply for this PhD project, mention the following reference code in the imec application form: ref. SE 1704-24.