Silicon photonics biosensors continue to be an area of active research, showing the potential to revolutionize Labon-
Chip applications ranging from environmental monitoring to medical diagnostics. As near-infrared light
propagates through nano-scale silicon wires on an SOI chip, a portion of the light resides outside the waveguide
and interacts with biomolecules and the biological matrix on the waveguide’s surface. This capability makes silicon
photonics an ideal platform for label-free biosensing. Additionally, the SOI platform is compatible with standard
CMOS fabrication processes, facilitating manufacturing at the economies of scale offered by today’s foundries. In
this paper, we describe our efforts to improve the performance of SOI-based biosensors—specifically, TE and TM
mode microring resonators, thin waveguide resonators, sub-wavelength grating resonators, as well as strip and slot
Bragg gratings. We compare device performance in terms of sensitivity, intrinsic limit of detection, and their
potential for biosensing applications in Lab-on-Chip systems.
Silicon photonics is poised to revolutionize biosensing applications, specifically in medical diagnostics. Optical sensors can be designed to improve clinically-relevant diagnostic assays and be functionalized to capture and detect target biomarkers of interest. There are various approaches to designing these sensors - improving the devices' performance, increasing the interaction of light with the analyte, and matching the characteristics of the biomolecules by using architectures that complement the biosensing application. Using e-beam lithography and standard foundry processes, we have investigated Transverse Magnetic (TM) and Transverse Electric (TE) disk and ring resonators. TM devices hold the potential for higher sensitivity and large-particle sensing capabilities due to the increased penetration distance of light into the analyte. In addition, devices such as slot wavegguide Bragg grating sensors have shown high sensitivities and high quality factors and may present advantages for specific biosensing applications. These devices have been investigated for wavelengths around λ=1550 nm (conventional wavelength window in fiber-optic communication) and λ=1220 nm, where the water absorption is greatly decreased, offering improved limits of detection. Using reversibly bonded PDMS microfluidic flow cells, the performance and bio-detection capabilities of these devices were characterized. Comparing binding performance across these devices will help validate architectures suitable for biological applications. The most promising sensors for each application will then be identified for further study and development. This paper will discuss the sensors' comparative advantages for different applications in biosensing and provide an outlook for future work in this field.
Silicon photonic resonators, implemented using silicon-on-insulator substrates, are promising for numerous applications.
The most commonly studied resonators are ring/racetrack resonators. We have fabricated these and other resonators including
disk resonators, waveguide-grating resonators, ring resonator reflectors, contra-directional grating-coupler ring
resonators, and racetrack-based multiplexer/demultiplexers.
While numerous resonators have been demonstrated for sensing purposes, it remains unclear as to which structures
provide the highest sensitivity and best limit of detection; for example, disc resonators and slot-waveguide-based ring
resonators have been conjectured to provide an improved limit of detection. Here, we compare various resonators in
terms of sensor metrics for label-free bio-sensing in a micro-fluidic environment. We have integrated resonator arrays with
PDMS micro-fluidics for real-time detection of biomolecules in experiments such as antigen-antibody binding reaction
experiments using Human Factor IX proteins. Numerous resonators are fabricated on the same wafer and experimentally
compared. We identify that, while evanescent-field sensors all operate on the principle that the analyte's refractive index
shifts the resonant frequency, there are important differences between implementations that lie in the relationship between
the optical field overlap with the analyte and the relative contributions of the various loss mechanisms.
The chips were fabricated in the context of the CMC-UBC Silicon Nanophotonics Fabrication course and workshop.
This yearlong, design-based, graduate training program is offered to students from across Canada and, over the last four
years, has attracted participants from nearly every Canadian university involved in photonics research. The course takes
students through a full design cycle of a photonic circuit, including theory, modelling, design, and experimentation.