In this project, you will contribute to the design, fabrication and characterisation of the optoelectronic components of the device, and the demonstration of high sensitivity and specificity in bio-molecule sensing. Background
The diagnosis of infectious diseases currently relies on a variety of laboratory-based tests, e.g. culture, immunoassays and microscopy, which have various limitations. The common shortcoming is that those approaches require the transport of biological samples to be analysed from the point-of-care to a laboratory equipped with expensive instrumentation where experienced personnel perform costly and time-consuming tests. For many infectious diseases, a timely diagnosis at the point-of-care level resulting in a rapid initiation of the treatment can be critical.
This project will be embedded within an on-going ambitious research programme aimed at the development of a novel optical biosensor device which surpasses current technologies. The biosensor will combine multiplex capabilities, detecting hundreds of biomarkers at once, with quantitative real-time detection, miniaturisation, low-cost and user-friendliness, while exhibiting high sensitivity and specificity, representing a ‘game-changer’ in the biosensors market.
The device design is based on a novel lab-on-a-chip approach, where the optical excitation, sensing elements, and detectors are fabricated on the same semiconductor chip. The building blocks of the sensor are photonic crystals, i.e. optical devices where periodic structures of dielectric materials are engineered to tailor the interaction with light, to create unique optical properties. Project aims and methods
The main objectives of the project are:
Design of the device: The student will have access to a multi-physics modelling software (COMSOL), which will be used to simulate the optical, electronic, and thermal properties of the device components to optimise their performance. The device will be subsequently fabricated according to the design, by using state-of-the-art lithography and etching techniques. Characterisation of the device components: The student will characterise the electrical and optical properties of the different components of the fabricated device and will compare them with the simulations, providing feedback for the design/fabrication steps. This step will also be a first demonstration of the device performance in multi-biomarker sensing
You will join the vibrant multi-disciplinary research environment of the Quantum Optoelectronics and Biophotonics group, which gathers experienced scientists and PhD students from both the School of Biosciences and the School of Physics, with research interests spanning from solid-state physics to bio-imaging, and offers state-of-the-art facilities, including modelling software, micro-spectroscopy set-ups, a probe station for electrical characterisation of devices, etc.
The proposed project is an exceptional opportunity for you to gain key skills on a range of different technologies, from computer modelling of photonic devices to their experimental characterisation.
You will be trained to use an advanced multi-physics modelling software which allows the simulations of optical, electronic and thermal properties.
For the characterisation part, you will learn how to operate state-of-the-art experimental set-ups to investigate the optical and electrical properties of the device. Notably, you will be trained to align the set-up for micro-spectroscopy measurements, to operate laser systems and spectrometers, and to perform electric measurements using a probe station to drive current through the device and read the output signal.
You will learn how to analyse the experimental results and compare them with the simulations using different data analysis software (Origin, Matlab, etc).
Beyond research experience, you will disseminate the findings through publishing in leading international academic journals and high-impact conferences, developing writing and presentation skills. You will be involved in public engagement and outreach activities, including local science festivals and updating of project webpage/social media accounts.
Finally, you will gain experience in project management, developing important organisational skills.