We herein report on the stability of Electrolyte/Insulator/Semiconductor (EIS) devices with Self-Assembled Monolayer (SAM) gate insulator layers, i.e. Electrolyte/SAM/Semiconductor (ESS) devices. ESS devices can be functionalized creating highly specific sensors that can be integrated on standard silicon platform. However, biosensors by their nature are in contact with biological solutions that containions and molecules that may affect the device characteristics and cause electrical instability. In this paper we present a list of potential hazards to ESS devices and a study of the device stability under common testing conditions analyzing possible causes for the instabilities. ESS capacitors under open circuit conditions (i.e. open circuit bias of ~0.6 V vs. Ag/AgCl reference electrode) were periodically characterized. We measured the complex impedance of the capacitors versus bias and extracted the effective capacitance vs. voltage (C-V) curves using two methods. We observed a parallel shift of the C-V curves toward negative bias; showing an effective accumulation of positive charge. The quantitative analysis of the drift vs. time was found to depend on the effective capacitance evaluation method. This effect is discussed and a best-known method is proposed. The devices surface composition was tested before and after the stress experiment by X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) and sodium accumulation was observed. To further explore the flat-band voltage drift effect and to challenge the assumption that alkali ions are involved in the drift we conceived a novel alkali-free phosphate buffer saline (AF-PBS) where the sodium and potassium ions are replaced by ammonium ion and tested the capacitor under similar conditions to standard PBS. We found that the drift of the AF-PBS solution was much less at the first hour but was similar to that of the conventional PBS for longer stress times; hence, AF-PBS does not solve the long-term instability problem, although it can be useful for short-time measurement conditions, in the range of few minutes, for disposable devices.
- Impedance spectroscopy
- Self-assembled monolayer