Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Materials Science and Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Chunlei Wang

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Kinzy Jones

Third Advisor's Name

Norman Munroe

Fourth Advisor's Name

Chenzhong Li


Carbon, MEMS, Graphene, Biosensors, Electrochemical sensing, Cancer biomarker

Date of Defense



Advancements in the micro-and nano-scale fabrication techniques have opened up new avenues for the development of portable, scalable and easier-to-use biosensors. Over the last few years, electrodes made of carbon have been widely used as sensing units in biosensors due to their attractive physiochemical properties. The aim of this research is to investigate different strategies to develop functionalized high surface carbon micro/nano-structures for electrochemical and biosensing devices.

High aspect ratio three-dimensional carbon microarrays were fabricated via carbon microelectromechanical systems (C-MEMS) technique, which is based on pyrolyzing pre-patterned organic photoresist polymers. To further increase the surface area of the carbon microstructures, surface porosity was introduced by two strategies, i.e. (i) using F127 as porogen and (ii) oxygen reactive ion etch (RIE) treatment. Electrochemical characterization showed that porous carbon thin film electrodes prepared by using F127 as porogen had an effective surface area (Aeff 185%) compared to the conventional carbon electrode.

To achieve enhanced electrochemical sensitivity for C-MEMS based functional devices, graphene was conformally coated onto high aspect ratio three-dimensional (3D) carbon micropillar arrays using electrostatic spray deposition (ESD) technique. The amperometric response of graphene/carbon micropillar electrode arrays exhibited higher electrochemical activity, improved charge transfer and a linear response towards H2O2 detection between 250μM to 5.5mM.

Furthermore, carbon structures with dimensions from 50 nano-to micrometer level have been fabricated by pyrolyzing photo-nanoimprint lithography patterned organic resist polymer. Microstructure, elemental composition and resistivity characterization of the carbon nanostructures produced by this process were very similar to conventional photoresist derived carbon. Surface functionalization of the carbon nanostructures was performed using direct amination technique.

Considering the need for requisite functional groups to covalently attach bioreceptors on the carbon surface for biomolecule detection, different oxidation techniques were compared to study the types of carbon–oxygen groups formed on the surface and their percentages with respect to different oxidation pretreatment times.

Finally, a label-free detection strategy using signaling aptamer/protein binding complex for platelet-derived growth factor oncoprotein detection on functionalized three-dimensional carbon microarrays platform was demonstrated. The sensor showed near linear relationship between the relative fluorescence difference and protein concentration even in the sub-nanomolar range with an excellent detection limit of 5 pmol.





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