Nanowires, made of metal, semiconductor, or conductive polymer, exhibit promising potentials in the next generation sensors and other electronic systems. Compared to their planar counterparts, nanoscale junctions can efficiently regulate the accumulation or depletion of charge carriers and significantly increase the sensitivity up to single molecule level. However, large scale manufacturing of nanowire-based sensing systems is impeded by: (1) the lack of a low-cost, reliable, and efficient way to direct nanowires to desired locations; (2) the large measuring noise resulting from the random stacking or aggregates of nanowires. This project is to develop a new scalable nanomanufacturing process in the production of well aligned and patterned nanowire electronic systems. DNA assemblies will first be guided to desired locations to create well-defined nanoarchitecture. Their negative replica, nanochannels, will then serve as the sacrificial templates to produce highly ordered nanowires through chemical or electrochemical deposition. In this way, the difficulties for individual nanowire isolation and alignment existing in most template synthesis approaches could be largely eliminated. The structural defects commonly seen in biological template synthesis are also avoided. In this project, metallic and conductive polymer nanowire field emission transistors (nanoFETs) and nanojunction thermopiles (nanoTPs) will be fabricated and tested for DNA and protein detection.
With this new approach, the synthesis, alignment, and patterning of nanowire lattice can be done in a reliable and efficient manner and with high throughput. Its success may revolutionize current nanowire-based sensing system manufacturing. The produced sensors can be broadly used in clinical diagnosis, environmental monitoring, security screening, and biowarfare defense. Accompanied by its research activities, this project will also offer interdisciplinary opportunities for engineering students to gain hands-on research experiences in materials, biology, and multiple engineering disciplines. Relevant education materials and resources will be cost-effectively disseminated by globalized educational tools and pipelines to benefit all-level students, particularly those from disadvantaged groups. These efforts are expected to help strengthen the quantity, quality and diversity of the US science and engineering workforce.