Date of Award

Summer 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Micro and Nanoscale Systems

First Advisor

Adarsh Radadia


This research focuses on the development a dielectrophoresis-enhanced microfluidic impedance biosensor (DEP-e-MIB) to enable fast response, real-time, label-free, and highly sensitive sensor for bacterial detection in clinical sample. The proposed design consists of application of dielectrophoresis (DEP) across a microfluidic channel to one of the impedance spectroscopy electrodes in order to improve the existent bacterial detection limits with impedance spectroscopy. In order to realize such a design, choice of electrode material with a wide electrochemical potential window for water is very important. Conventional electrode material, such as gold, are typically insulated for the application of DEP, and they fail when used open because the DEP voltages avoiding electrolysis do not provide enough force to move the bacteria.

First, the use of nanodiamonds (ND) seeding gold surface to widen the electrochemical potential window is examined, since diamond has a wider potential window. ND seed coverage is a function of sonication time, ND concentration, and solvent of ND dispersion. Examining these parameters allowed us to increase the ND surface coverage to ~35%. With the highest ND coverage achievable, such electrodes are still susceptible to damage from electrolysis, however yield a unique leverage for impedance biosensing. When NDs is seeded at a 3x3 interdigitated electrode array, which act as electrically conductive islands between the electrodes and reduce the effective gap between the electrodes, thus allowing to perform impedance spectroscopy in solutions with low electrical conductivity such as ITS. The changes obtained in resistance to charge transfer with bacterial capture is nearly twice than that obtained with plain electrodes.

Secondly, the feasibility of using boron-doped ultra nanocrystalline diamond (BD-UNCD) to apply DEP is tested without constructing a 3x3 IDE array. BD-UNCD electrodes can be used for DEP through tagging of the bacteria with immunolatex beads. This allows applying a larger DEP force on the bacteria. Since historically bead based assays are plagued with problems with non-specific binding, the role of different parameters including bead bioconjugation chemistry, bead PEGylation, BD-UNCD surface PEGylation, and DEP on specific and non-specific binding are tested. Most importantly DEP increases the specific binding and PEGylation of beads decreases the specific binding.

Finally, a 3x3 IDE array with BD-UNCD was fabricated, and used impedance spectroscopy to test the suitability of BD-UNCD IDEs for impedance biosensing. The huge electrode resistance and the charge transfer resistance at BD-UNCD IDEs poses a problem for impedance biosensing as it will lead to lower sensitivity.

BD-UNCD is the material of choice for applying DEP at open electrodes however gold is the choice of material for designing the chip interconnects. So the BD-UNCD layer should be as thin as possible and the interface between gold IDEs and the solution phase during DEP. The findings in this dissertation put us closer to realizing a DEP-eMIB.