Sensing with Advanced Computing Technology: Fin Field-Effect Transistors with High-k Gate Stack on Bulk Silicon
Field-effect transistors (FETs) form an established technology for sensing applications. However, recent advancements and use of high-performance multigate metal-oxide semiconductor FETs (double-gate, FinFET, trigate, gate-all-around) in computing technology, instead of bulk MOSFETs, raise new opportunities and questions about the most suitable device architectures for sensing integrated circuits. In this work, we propose pH and ion sensors exploiting FinFETs fabricated on bulk silicon by a fully CMOS compatible approach, as an alternative to the widely investigated silicon nanowires on silicon-on-insulator substrates. We also provide an analytical insight of the concept of sensitivity for the electronic integration of sensors. N-channel fully depleted FinFETs with critical dimensions on the order of 20 nm and HfO2 as a high-k gate insulator have been developed and characterized, showing excellent electrical properties, subthreshold swing, SS similar to 70 mV/dec, and on-to-off current ratio, l(on)/l(off) similar to 10(6), at room temperature. The same FinFET architecture is validated as a highly sensitive, stable, and reproducible pH sensor. An intrinsic sensitivity close to the Nernst limit, S = 57 mV/pH, is achieved. The pH response in terms of output current reaches S-out = 60%. Long-term measurements have been performed over 4.5 days with a resulting drift in time delta V-th/delta t = 0.10 mV/h. Finally, we show the capability to reproduce experimental data with an extended three-dimensional commercial finite element analysis simulator, in both dry and wet environments, which is useful for future advanced sensor design and optimization.