The frequency shift of a shear-horizontal surface-acoustic-wave (SH-SAW) biosensor in which the concentration of biomolecule is determined by the amount of its adsorption on the sensing film was studied. Simulation results were compared with experimental results to investigate its sensitivity and to develop a model to estimate the concentration of a cancer-related biomarker antigen epidermal growth factor (EGF) in the sample, with two types of sensing films, 3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane (APTES) and glutaraldehyde. With the concentration of the targeted biomarker varying from 0.2 to 5 ng/mL, a typical exponential relationship was found between the concentration and the frequency shift of the SH-SAW sensor. Measurement results showed a clear response of this immunosensor to the mass-loading effects of the antibody–antigen. The sensitivity of the glutaraldehyde film is greater than that of the APTES film owing to the chemisorption of the antibody. In the simulation, a shift of the SH-SAW resonant frequency due to added mass occurred on applying an incremental surface mass density on the sensing film, while in real applications, the concentration of the targeted biomarker to be absorbed in the sensing film is demanded. An empirical model was proposed to calculate the frequency shift in the simulation of the SH-SAW biosensor, corresponding to the concentration of specific biomolecules absorbed on a specific film. From the semi-empirical model, the sensitivity level is found to be 0.641 and 1.709 kHz/(ng/mL) for APTES and glutaraldehyde sensing films, respectively, at a biomarker concentration of less than 1 ng/mL. The developed method is useful for quickly estimating the frequency shift with respect to the concentration of the target molecules in the simulation for SH-SAW sensors.
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