Surface acoustic wave biosensors: a review


This review presents an overview of 20 years of worldwide development in the field of biosensors based on special types of surface acoustic wave (SAW) devices that permit the highly sensitive detection of biorelevant molecules in liquid media (such as water or aqueous buffer solutions). 1987 saw the first approaches, which used either horizontally polarized shear waves (HPSW) in a delay line configuration on lithium tantalate (LiTaO3) substrates or SAW resonator structures on quartz or LiTaO3 with periodic mass gratings. The latter are termed “surface transverse waves” (STW), and they have comparatively low attenuation values when operated in liquids. Later Love wave devices were developed, which used a film resonance effect to significantly reduce attenuation. All of these sensor approaches were accompanied by the development of appropriate sensing films. First attempts used simple layers of adsorbed antibodies. Later approaches used various types of covalently bound layers, for example those utilizing intermediate hydrogel layers. Recent approaches involve SAW biosensor devices inserted into compact systems with integrated fluidics for sample handling. To achieve this, the SAW biosensors can be embedded into micromachined polymer housings. Combining these two features will extend the system to create versatile biosensor arrays for generic lab use or for diagnostic purposes.

SAW based biosensor immersed in a sample flow. Analyte molecules binding to the immobilized antibodies on the sensor surface will influence the velocity of the SAW and hence the output signal generated by the driving electronics.

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Länge, K., Rapp, B.E. & Rapp, M. Surface acoustic wave biosensors: a review. Anal Bioanal Chem 391, 1509–1519 (2008).

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  • Surface acoustic wave
  • Biosensors
  • Interaction analysis
  • Chip