Mechanism and optimization of pH sensing using SnO 2 nanobelt field effect transistors

Yi Cheng, P. Xiong, C. Steven Yun, G. F. Strouse, J. P. Zheng, R. S. Yang, Z. L. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


We report a systematic investigation about the mechanism of pH sensing using SnO 2 nanobelt field effect transistors (FETs). The FETs, based on single SnO 2 nanobelts, are channel-limited and with proper contact passivation; the pH sensing was conducted with sodium phosphate solutions through integrated microfluidics. The responses of the FET channel conductance to pH were measured at different gate voltages: a linear pH dependence was observed in the linear transport "on" state, while an exponential dependence was observed in the subthreshold regime. Measurements at the same pH but different ion concentrations demonstrated that the FET's pH sensitivity decreases logarithmically with the ion concentration. The effect of APTES-functionalization was evaluated by comparing the pH responses of the same device with and without the surface modification. The APTES functionalization results in a slight enhancement of the pH sensitivity and a large suppression of the noise level, leading to marked improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio. The results indicate that the pH sensing is based on a screened field-effect response of the FETs to the surface protonation/deprotonation on the nanobelt. This study provides several useful guidelines for optimizing the sensor performance for chemical and biomolecular detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4179-4184
Number of pages6
JournalNano letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008

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