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. To overcome these limitations there is an increasing trend to reuse the nanotechnologies developed by the semiconductor industry to develop a "lab on a chip", i.e. to integrate sensors, fluidics, readout etc. in miniaturized tests for life sciences, implantable or ingestible devices, bioreactors, food, environmental studies, etc. Recent examples at Imec in the biomolecular area 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).
Optical techniques still require the integration of light sources, filters, detectors, etc. Electrochemical detection is an attractive fully electrical alternative that enables multiple types of biosensors ranging from small molecules to proteins and DNA, and that lends itself to integration with highly parallel on-chip readout (3). The goal of this PhD is to develop novel CMOS compatible sensing strategies for miniaturized and highly parallellized electrochemical sensing. Challenges include the selection and optimization of electrochemical reporter strategies and measurement protocols to maximize the signal and suppress parasitics, the miniaturization of the devices, the screening of faradaic contact materials and their fabrication strategies within a CMOS fab environment, and managing the general (in)compatibility between the biomolecular world and the world of active semiconductor devices.
The PhD 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 closely with the fab for the development of mass-manufacturable processes, and with the circuit design teams for the exploration of embedded sense amplifiers matched to the selected measurement strategies.
(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) E.g. C. M. Lopez, IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits 53, 3076 (2018), doi: 10.1109/JSSC.2018.2863952.
Required background: Engineering Technology, Engineering Science, Electrochemistry, Materials Science, Nanotechnology, or equivalent.
Type of work: 20% fabrication, 40% experiments, 30% analysis, modeling, and interpretation, 10% literature and interactions
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.