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Comparative advantages of mechanical biosensors

Subjects

Abstract

Mechanical interactions are fundamental to biology. Mechanical forces of chemical origin determine motility and adhesion on the cellular scale, and govern transport and affinity on the molecular scale. Biological sensing in the mechanical domain provides unique opportunities to measure forces, displacements and mass changes from cellular and subcellular processes. Nanomechanical systems are particularly well matched in size with molecular interactions, and provide a basis for biological probes with single-molecule sensitivity. Here we review micro- and nanoscale biosensors, with a particular focus on fast mechanical biosensing in fluid by mass- and force-based methods, and the challenges presented by non-specific interactions. We explain the general issues that will be critical to the success of any type of next-generation mechanical biosensor, such as the need to improve intrinsic device performance, fabrication reproducibility and system integration. We also discuss the need for a greater understanding of analyte–sensor interactions on the nanoscale and of stochastic processes in the sensing environment.

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Figure 1: Fluidic detection limits for protein sensing.
Figure 2: Fluidic micromechanical biosensors.
Figure 3: Depletion in microfluidic structures.
Figure 4: Effect of surface-area:volume ratio on bulk target depletion.
Figure 5: Fluidic nanomechanical biosensors.
Figure 6: NEMS arrays and system integration.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (HR00110610043 and N66001-08-1-2043) and the Fondation pour la Recherche et l'Enseignement Superieur for support. M.L.R. acknowledges a Director's Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health (1DP1OD006924). We also thank P. Puget for many discussions.

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Arlett, J., Myers, E. & Roukes, M. Comparative advantages of mechanical biosensors. Nature Nanotech 6, 203–215 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2011.44

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