Olfaction is capable of accomplishing incredible tasks: it starts with capturing an odor molecule, delivering it to the odorant receptors, converting it into an electrical stimulus and transmitting the data to the brain. And all of this in milliseconds. The sense of smell is not yet fully decoded and is far from being replicated by modern sensor technologies. One approach to convert biological recognition- and binding events in real-time and in a label-free manner to electrical signals is emulated in a "biomimetic electronic smell sensor". It is based on a transistor, in many cases realized as a field-effect transistor (FET) with a biorecognition element, e.g., an odorant binding protein (OBP) converting the binding event of one of its typically many ligands directly into a measurable electrical signal. OBPs are immobilized on these FETs and modulate the current in the presence of smell molecules due to the charge redistribution in the gated channel. Graphene is an elegant candidate to realize such a sensor device because an atomic monolayer of a semiconducting material leads to increased sensitivity. Beside the direct molecule interaction with the substrate upon binding and its excellent biocompatible character, graphene has the advantage of a biological-friendly working point in the sub-Volt regime. Different approaches of preparation and functionalization of graphene field-effect transistors (gFETs) are utilized to tune the performance for odorant sensing. The evaluation of kinetic binding parameters like association and dissociation rate constants and the equilibrium affinity constants of protein-ligand interactions can be derived from the direct electrical read-out of such miniaturized sensor systems. In this article, the state of the art of gFET preparation, functionalization, and operation for odorant sensing will be discussed.
- Biosensor Technologies