Sub-10-nm intracellular bioelectronic probes from nanowire-nanotube heterostructures

Tian Ming Fu, Xiaojie Duan, Zhe Jiang, Xiaochuan Dai, Ping Xie, Zengguang Cheng, Charles M. Lieber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The miniaturization of bioelectronic intracellular probes with a wide dynamic frequency range can open up opportunities to study biological structures inaccessible by existing methods in a minimally invasive manner. Here, we report the design, fabrication, and demonstration of intracellular bioelectronic devices with probe sizes less than 10 nm. The devices are based on a nanowire-nanotube heterostructure in which a nanowire field-effect transistor detector is synthetically integrated with a nanotube cellular probe. Sub-10-nm nanotube probes were realized by a two-step selective etching approach that reduces the diameter of the nanotube freeend while maintaining a larger diameter at the nanowire detector necessary for mechanical strength and electrical sensitivity. Quasistatic water-gate measurements demonstrated selective device response to solution inside the nanotube, and pulsed measurements together with numerical simulations confirmed the capability to record fast electrophysiological signals. Systematic studies of the probe bandwidth in different ionic concentration solutions revealed the underlying mechanism governing the time response. In addition, the bandwidth effect of phospholipid coatings, which are important for intracellular recording, was investigated and modeled. The robustness of these sub-10-nm bioelectronics probes for intracellular interrogation was verified by optical imaging and recording the transmembrane resting potential of HL-1 cells. These ultrasmall bioelectronic probes enable direct detection of cellular electrical activity with highest spatial resolution achieved to date, and with further integration into larger chip arrays could provide a unique platform for ultra-high-resolution mapping of activity in neural networks and other systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1259-1264
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 28 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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