Date of Award

December 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

David P. Klemer

Committee Members

Chiu Tai Law, Arash Mafi, Carolyn M. Aita, Chang Soo Kim


Biosensor, DNA, Field-Effect Transistor, GaAs, Microwave Devices


Sensitive high-frequency microwave devices hold great promise for biosensor design. These devices include GaAs field effect transistors (FETs), which can serve as transducers for biochemical reactions, providing a platform for label-free biosensing. In this study, a two-dimensional numerical model of a GaAs FET-based nucleic acid biosensor is proposed and simulated. The electronic band structure, space charge density, and current-voltage relationships of the biosensor device are calculated. The intrinsic small signal parameters for the device are derived from simulated DC characteristics and used to predict AC behavior at high frequencies.

The biosensor model is based on GaAs field-effect device physics, semiconductor transport equations, and a DNA charge model. Immobilization of DNA molecules onto the GaAs sensor surface results in an increase in charge density at the gate region, resulting from negatively-charged DNA molecules. In modeling this charge effect on device electrical characteristics, we take into account the pre-existing surface charge, the orientation of DNA molecules on the sensor surface, and the distance of the negative molecular charges from the sensor surface. Hybridization with complementary molecules results in a further increase in charge density, which further impacts the electrical behavior of the device. This behavior is studied through simulation of the device current transport equations. In the simulations, numerical methods are used to calculate the band structure and self-consistent solutions for the coupled Schrodinger, Poisson, and current equations. The results suggest that immobilization and hybridization of DNA biomolecules at the biosensor device can lead to measurable changes in electronic band structure and current-voltage relationships.

The high-frequency response of the biosensor device shows that GaAs FET devices can be fabricated as sensitive detectors of oligonucleotide binding, facilitating the development of inexpensive semiconductor-based molecular diagnostics suitable for rapid diagnosis of various disease states.