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The sensing of chemicals and biochemical molecules using several porous silicon optical microsensors, based both on single-layer interferometers and resonant-cavity-enhanced microstructures, is reported. The operation of both families of sensors is based on the variation of the average refractive index of the porous silicon region, due to the interaction with chemical substances either in vapor or liquid state, which results in marked shifts of the device reflectivity spectra. The well established single-layer configuration has been used to test a new chemical approach based on Si-C bonds for covalent immobilization of biological molecules, as probe, in a stable way on the porous silicon surface. Preliminary results on complementary oligonucleotide recognition, based on this technique, are also presented and discussed. Porous silicon optical microcavities, based on multilayered resonating structures, have been used to detect chemical substances and, in particular, flammable and toxic organic solvents, and some hydrocarbons. The results put in evidence the high sensitivity, the reusability, and the low response time of the resonant-cavity-enhanced sensing technique. The possibility of operating at room temperature, of remote interrogation, and the absence of electrical contacts are further advantages characterizing the sensing technique.
Date of Publication: March 2004