Theoretical and experimental development of a ZnO-based laterally excited thickness shear mode acoustic wave immunosensor for cancer biomarker detection
Corso, Christopher David
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The object of this thesis research was to develop and characterize a new type of acoustic biosensor - a ZnO-based laterally excited thickness shear mode (TSM) resonator in a solidly mounted configuration. The first specific aim of the research was to develop the theoretical underpinnings of the acoustic wave propagation in ZnO. Theoretical calculations were carried out by solving the piezoelectrically stiffened Christoffel equation to elucidate the acoustic modes that are excited through lateral excitation of a ZnO stack. A finite element model was developed to confirm the calculations and investigate the electric field orientation and density for various electrode configurations. A proof of concept study was also carried out using a Quartz Crystal Microbalance device to investigate the application of thickness shear mode resonators to cancer biomarker detection in complex media. The results helped to provide a firm foundation for the design of new gravimetric sensors with enhanced capabilities. The second specific aim was to design and fabricate arrays of multiple laterally excited TSM devices and fully characterize their electrical properties. The solidly mounted resonator configuration was developed for the ZnO-based devices through theoretical calculations and experimentation. A functional mirror comprised of W and SiO2 was implemented in development of the TSM resonators. The devices were fabricated and tested for values of interest such as Q, and electromechanical coupling (K2) as well as their ability to operate in liquids. The third specific aim was to investigate the optimal surface chemistry scheme for linking the antibody layer to the ZnO device surface. Crosslinking schemes involving organosilane molecules and a phosphonic acid were compared for immobilizing antibodies to the surface of the ZnO. Results indicate that the thiol-terminated organosilane provides high antibody surface coverage and uniformity and is an excellent candidate for planar ZnO functionalization. The fourth and final specific aim was to investigate the sensitivity of the acoustic immunosensors to potential diagnostic biomarkers. Initial tests were performed in buffer spiked with varying concentrations of the purified target antigen to develop a dose-response curve for the detection of mesothelin-rFc. Subsequent tests were carried out in prostate cancer cell line conditioned medium for the detection of PSA. The results of the experiments establish the operation of the devices in complex media, and indicate that the acoustic sensors are sensitive enough for the detection of biomolecular targets at clinically relevant concentrations.