The detection and quantification of chemical and biological species are the key technology in many areas of healthcare and life sciences. Field-effect transistors (FETs) are sophisticated devices used for the label-free and real-time detection of charged species. Nanowire channels were used for highly sensitive detections of target ion or biomolecule in FET sensors, however, even significantly higher detection sensitivity is required in FET sensors, especially when the target species are dilute in concentration. Since the high detection sensitivity of nanowire FET sensors is due to the suppression of the carrier percolation effect through the channel, the channel width has to be decreased, leading to the decrease in the transconductance (gm
). Therefore, gm
should be increased while keeping channel width narrow to obtain higher sensitivity. Single-electron transistors (SETs) are a promising candidate for achieving higher detection sensitivity due to the Coulomb oscillations. However, no reports of an SET-based ion sensor or biosensor existed, probably because of the difficulty of the room-temperature operation of SETs. Recently, room-temperature SET operations were carried out using a Si multiple-island channel structure. This review introduces the mechanism of ultra-sensitive detection of ions and biomolecules based on an SET sensor and the experimental results.
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