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A pH sensor fabricated on a single chip by an unmodified, commercial 0.6-μm CMOS process is presented. The sensor comprises a circuit for making differential measurements between an ion-sensitive field-effect transistor (ISFET) and a reference FET (REFET). The ISFET has a floating-gate structure and uses the silicon nitride passivation layer as a pH-sensitive insulator. As fabricated, it has a large threshold voltage that is postulated to be caused by a trapped charge on the floating gate. Ultraviolet radiation and bulk-substrate biasing is used to permanently modify the threshold voltage so that the ISFET can be used in a battery-operated circuit. A novel post-processing method using a single layer of photoresist is used to define the sensing areas and to provide robust encapsulation for the chip. The complete circuit, operating from a single 3-V supply, provides an output voltage proportional to pH and can be powered down when not required.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2004