(19)
(11)EP 3 671 186 A1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT APPLICATION

(43)Date of publication:
24.06.2020 Bulletin 2020/26

(21)Application number: 19166562.9

(22)Date of filing:  01.04.2019
(51)Int. Cl.: 
G01N 21/77  (2006.01)
G02B 6/12  (2006.01)
G01N 15/00  (2006.01)
G01N 21/25  (2006.01)
G01N 33/04  (2006.01)
G01N 33/543  (2006.01)
B01L 3/00  (2006.01)
H01L 27/14  (2006.01)
G01N 21/552  (2014.01)
(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR
Designated Extension States:
BA ME
Designated Validation States:
KH MA MD TN

(30)Priority: 21.12.2018 EP 18215524

(71)Applicant: IHP GmbH - Innovations for High Performance Microelectronics / Leibniz-Institut für innovative Mikroelektronik
15236 Frankfurt (Oder) (DE)

(72)Inventors:
  • Steglich, Patrick
    10317 Berlin (DE)
  • Mai, Andreas
    03172 Guben (DE)
  • Mai, Christian
    03172 Guben (DE)

(74)Representative: Eisenführ Speiser 
Patentanwälte Rechtsanwälte PartGmbB Anna-Louisa-Karsch-Strasse 2
10178 Berlin
10178 Berlin (DE)

  


(54)PHOTONIC SENSOR CHIP, PACKAGED PHOTONIC SENSOR DEVICE AND ARRANGEMENT


(57) The invention relates to a photonic sensor chip (100) comprising a semiconductor substrate (112) with a cavity (118) extending from a back side (116) through an entire depth of the semiconductor substrate (112), a photonic plane (124) located on the front side (114) of the semiconductor substrate (112). The photonic sensor chip (100) includes a photonic particle sensor element (120) with an active-surface element (122) having an exposed active surface facing towards the back side (116) of the semiconductor substrate (112), for capturing selected particles from at least one fluid or gas to which the active surface is exposable. The cavity (118) provides access to the active surface from the back side (116). The photonic particle sensor element (120) receives an optical input wave via the photonic plane (124), to expose captured particles on the active-surface element (120) to interaction with the optical input wave and to provide a resulting optical output wave having a spectral component indicative of the interaction between the optical input wave and captured particles.




Description


[0001] The present invention relates to a photonic sensor chip, to a packaged photonic sensor device and to a photonic sensor arrangement.

[0002] Photonic sensors have contributed to major advances in food diagnostics, environmental monitoring, veterinary diagnostics and medical technology through rapid and accurate analysis of a wide range of particles in a fluid or a gas. In fact, great progress has been made in recent years in photonic sensor technology for bioanalytics. Surface plasmon resonance (SPR) has become a standard technology applied for this purpose. However, as of today, this technology is quite expensive in terms of equipment and total costs regarding chips and service, and known sensors based on SPR are rather bulky.

[0003] It would thus be desirable to achieve cheaper photonic sensor devices that are suitable for detecting particles in bioanalytics and offer the prospect of cost-effective on-site analysis.

[0004] According to the first aspect of the invention, a photonic sensor chip is provided. The photonic sensor chip comprises:
  • a semiconductor substrate having a front side and a back side;
  • at least one cavity extending from the back side through an entire depth of the semiconductor substrate;
  • a photonic plane located on the front side of the semiconductor substrate and including
    • at least one photonic particle sensor element with an active-surface element having an exposed active surface facing towards the back side of the semiconductor substrate and configured for capturing selected particles from at least one fluid or gas to which the active surface is exposable, wherein the least one cavity provides access to the active surface from the back side of the semiconductor substrate; and wherein
    • the photonic particle sensor element is configured to receive an optical input wave via the photonic plane, to expose particles captured by the active-surface element to interact with the optical input wave and to provide a resulting optical output wave having a spectral component indicative of the interaction between the optical input wave and the captured particles.


[0005] The photonic sensor chip includes at least one cavity extending from the back side through an entire depth of the semiconductor substrate. The cavity provides access to the active surface of the photonic particle sensor element from the back side of the semiconductor substrate. Thus, despite the arrangement of the photonic particle sensor element on the front side of the semiconductor substrate, it has an active-surface element for capturing particles that is exposed for access from the back side of the semiconductor substrate. Non-limiting examples of particles to be detected by the photonic particle sensor include, depending on a particular application purpose of a given embodiment, toxins, bacteria, viruses, allergens, antibiotics, hormones and other particles such as molecules.

[0006] The photonic sensor chip allows, by means of its structure, fabricating the photonic particle sensor element independent from the constraints of device structure fabrication on the front side of the semiconductor substrate. In particular, the active surface of the active-surface element facing towards the back side of the semiconductor substrate and configured for capturing selected particles can be fabricated after fabrication of any front side structures. Also, fabrication steps required for forming the active-surface element can be performed separately from fabrication processes for manufacturing the photonic plane on the front side of the semiconductor substrate. This allows using materials in the fabrication of the active-surface element that are not compatible with standard front-end-of-line (FEOL) technology such as NMOS, PMOS, CMOS or BiCMOS, whereas the photonic plane on the front side of the semiconductor substrate can be fabricated using such highly developed and cost-efficient FEOL technology.

[0007] Furthermore, the structure of the photonic sensor chip makes sure that, in operation, a fluid or gas which transports particles to be detected will not get in contact with the front side of the semiconductor substrate. Thus, potential exposure of the photonic sensor chip to a fluid or gas or to chemical reactions is restricted to the back side of the semiconductor substrate. This allows including integrated microelectronic components and complete electronic circuits on the front side of the photonic sensor chip, which will be described further below in more detail in the context of preferred embodiments. Therefore, the proposed photonic sensor chip is advantageously suited for integration in known semiconductor photonics concepts, including for instance complex device structures with integrated photonic, electro-optical, optoelectronic and electronic components on different levels.

[0008] In the following, embodiments of the photonic sensor chip will be described.

[0009] The inventive photonic sensor chip increases the flexibility of usage. In preferred embodiments of the photonic sensor chip, a microfluidic substrate is connected to the back side of the semiconductor substrate and comprises at least one microfluidic channel connecting an inlet for the fluid and an outlet for the fluid with the cavity. Regarding fabrication complexity, the connection of the microfluidic substrate on the back side of the semiconductor substrate according to the present embodiment is simpler in comparison to providing the microfluidics on the front side of the semiconductor substrate for access to the photonic particle sensor element.

[0010] In different embodiments of the photonic sensor chip of this kind, the microfluidic substrate is made of a plastic, glass, quartz or a semiconductor, enabling an application-specific material selection for the microfluidic substrate. The connection of the microfluidic substrate to the semiconductor substrate can be realized by wafer bonding for many of the materials mentioned. Wafer bonding is a well-known and reliable technique. The ability to use a wafer bonding technique thus forms an additional advantage of the of the structure of the photonic sensor chip which substantially simplifies the fabrication process.

[0011] Improving the light guiding to the active-surface element is achieved in an embodiment, in which the photonic particle sensor element comprises a waveguide arranged in the photonic plane for guiding the optical input wave to the active-surface element and for guiding the resulting optical output wave from the active-surface element to a light detector of the photonic particle sensor element. The waveguide guides the optical input wave in a defined manner the active-surface element and the resulting optical output wave to a light detector of the photonic particle sensor element.

[0012] Preferably, the semiconductor substrate is a silicon substrate, which for instance is formed from an industry-standard silicon wafer. In some embodiments of the photonic sensor chip of this kind, the waveguide in the photonic plane is arranged on a local island-like silicon-on-insulator (SOI) structure that is embedded in the bulk of the silicon substrate. This allows flexibly combining the advantages of using an SOI substrate for the photonic components and of using a silicon substrate surface for the microelectronic components and electrical connection lines.

[0013] In preferred embodiments of the photonic sensor chip, the active-surface element comprises a waveguide section of the waveguide. The waveguide section comprises at least one functionalized surface section configured for capturing the selected particles by selective interaction, and has an optical path length that depends on an amount of particles captured by the active surface. The waveguide section, in some of these embodiments, has a ring resonator geometry. In alternative embodiments, the waveguide section is a ring assisted Mach-Zahnder interferometer or a Fabry-Perot resonator with photonic crystals. All of these waveguide sections have the similarity that they provide an optical signal conveying the information on detected particles in a manner that is suitable for converting into an electrical signal by the light detector.

[0014] In other embodiments of the photonic sensor chip, the photonic particle sensor element comprises a plurality of active-surface elements optically arranged in a series connection and upstream of the light detector. Such arrangement of active-surface elements optically arranged in a series connection allows to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the resulting optical output wave to be transformed into a corresponding electrical signal by the light detector.

[0015] Different waveguide types can be used in the photonic sensor chip. In different exemplary embodiments, the waveguide is a strip waveguide, a slot waveguide, a rib waveguide or a strip-loaded slot waveguide on top of an insulating material layer.

[0016] In another embodiment, the photonic sensor chip comprises a plurality of photonic particle sensor element arranged in parallel. Thus, a plurality of active-surface elements (or respective series of identical active-surface elements) are provided upstream of a corresponding plurality of light detectors. Such a parallel arrangements of photonic particle sensor elements enables the detection of different selected particles in parallel.

[0017] Regarding the functionalized surface section of the waveguide section, different functionalization methods are possible. In some embodiments of the photonic sensor chip, the functionalized surface section is functionalized chemically. In exemplary embodiments of this kind, specific antibodies or ligands are covalently bonded to the surface of the waveguide section that forms the active surface element, resulting in a functionalized surface section. In other embodiments of the photonic sensor chip, the functionalized surface section is functionalized physically. For instance, the surface of the waveguide section forming the active-surface element has a roughness suitable for capturing particles. The roughness can be established in the fabrication process by physical treatment of the active-surface element, e.g., by ion bombardment.

[0018] In other embodiments, a highly reflective metal, e.g. gold, is arranged between the functionalized surface section of the active-surface element and the waveguide section as an intermediate layer. This layer stack is suitable for application in a surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy technique. It is a further advantage of the photonic sensor chip of the present invention that such intermediate layer of gold can be deployed, even if industry standard fabrication processes are used for front side fabrication. Gold is a material that must not be used in standard FEOL processing.

[0019] In different embodiments of the photonic sensor chip, the waveguide is substantially made of silicon, silicon nitride, silicon oxynitride or germanium. In the case of using silicon for the waveguide, either crystalline silicon, polysilicon or amorphous silicon can be used, depending on the requirements of the given application case.

[0020] In a preferred embodiment the photonic sensor chip further comprises:
  • a control unit, which is configured to drive operation of the at least one photonic particle sensor element on the photonic sensor chip;
  • a data acquisition unit configured to sample an output signal of the light detector;
  • an electrical interconnect stack, which is arranged on top of the photonic plane and comprises electrical interconnects for conducting electrical operating power and to conduct electronic signals to and from the control unit and the data acquisition unit.


[0021] The photonic sensor chip of this embodiment is advantageous due to its compact design, which in particular enables a lab-on-a-chip design. The control unit is configured to drive the operation of the photonic particle sensor element on the photonic sensor chip. The data acquisition unit is configured to sample an output signal of the light detector. The electrical interconnect stack, which is arranged on top of the photonic plane, comprises electrical interconnects on different metal planes which are separated from each other by a respective dielectric material layer and conductive vias, for conducting electrical operating power, and for conducting electronic signals to and from the control unit and the data acquisition unit. Such lab-on-a-chip design allows fabrication of particularly small and cost-effective solutions suitable for flexible application of the photonic sensor chip, e.g., in on-site diagnostics.

[0022] In further embodiments, the photonic sensor chip further comprises an electrically drivable phase shifter element. Examples of suitable phase shifter elements are a heating element embedded in the electrical interconnect stack, or a doped waveguide. In such kind of embodiment, the control unit receives the output signal of the light detector and is configured to drive operation of the phase shifter element in dependence on the received output signal in order to set and maintain a predetermined phase shift effected by the active-surface element alone. In such embodiments, the light detector receives a signal indicative of a phase shift with respect to a stabilized reference phase. Thus, a stabilized intensity is achieved, and an intensity change is reliably attributable to a useful signal.

[0023] In a preferred embodiment, the photonic sensor chip comprises at least one light source, e.g, a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser source or a light-emitting diode, connected to the waveguide and configured to generate and emit the optical input wave. The light source is arranged in the photonic plane. Alternatively, the light source is arranged in the interconnect stack or on top of the interconnect stack. In some variants of this embodiment, the light source is attached to the photonic sensor chip by a bonding technique, for example, via die-to wafer or wafer-to-wafer bonding.

[0024] According to a second aspect of the invention, a packaged photonic sensor device is provided. The packaged photonic sensor device comprises:
  • a photonic sensor chip according to an embodiment of the first aspect of the invention, wherein the photonic particle sensor element comprises a waveguide arranged in the photonic plane for guiding the optical input wave to the active-surface element and for guiding the resulting optical output wave from the active-surface element to a light detector of the photonic particle sensor element
  • an electronic control chip electrically connected to the photonic sensor chip arranged on the carrier and comprising a control unit, which is configured to drive operation of the at least one photonic particle sensor element on the photonic sensor chip and a data acquisition unit configured to sample an output signal of the light detector;
  • a package enclosing the photonic sensor chip and the electronic control chip and having an opening to ambient atmosphere facing the back side of the semiconductor substrate of the photonic sensor chip for providing access to the exposed active surface of the at least one photonic particle sensor element for the at least one fluid.


[0025] The photonic sensor chip can be arranged on a carrier and packaged by state of the art solutions, including a hole for providing access to the active-surface element of the particle sensor element of the photonic sensor chip.

[0026] According to a third aspect of the invention, a photonic sensor arrangement is provided. The photonic sensor arrangement comprises:
  • a packaged photonic sensor device according to the second aspect of the invention or one of its embodiments, and
  • a light source for generating the optical input wave, and an optical coupling element for coupling the optical input wave into the photonic plane of the photonic sensor chip.


[0027] The optical input wave is coupled into the photonic plane of the photonic sensor chip, for instance, by an optical fiber. Alternatively, the optical input wave is coupled into the photonic plane of the photonic sensor chip by a free-steel optic using a suitable lens. The package of the photonic sensor device must take the respective coupling of light into account.

[0028] In preferred embodiments the photonic sensor arrangement further comprises on the printed circuit board
  • a data transmission unit configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit and to transmit the output signal to an external device; and
  • an interface unit configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit and to indicate an amount of particles captured by the active surface.


[0029] This embodiment allows an immediate verification of the analysed particles. For example, a cross-check of allergens or germ content in food. Thus, such photonic sensor arrangement is used for quality assurance in food industry. Alternatively, such photonic sensor arrangement is used in medicine diagnostic, e.g. for analysing blood composition. Also, in some embodiments the presence of toxins in ambient atmosphere can be detected.

[0030] In the following, further embodiments will be described with reference to the enclosed drawings. In the drawings:

Fig. 1 shows a schematic cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a photonic sensor chip;

Fig. 2 shows a schematic backside view of a photonic sensor chip that includes a microfluidic substrate;

Fig. 3 shows a schematic cross-sectional view of the photonic sensor chip of Fig. 2 along a line III-III' shown in Fig. 2;

Fig. 4 shows a schematic cross-sectional view of different embodiments having different waveguide types, as used in embodiments of the photonic sensor chip;

Fig. 5 shows a functionalized silicon waveguide section for specific application using a photonic sensor chip;

Fig. 6 shows illustrations of two different optical ring resonators for use in a photonic sensor chip;

Fig. 7 shows a diagram of functionalized surface sections of different waveguides capturing particles using in a photonic sensor chip;

Fig. 8 shows transmission spectrum of measurement of the situations shown in Fig. 7 with a photonic sensor chip;

Fig. 9 shows an embodiment of a photonic sensor arrangement;

Fig. 10 shows a schematic cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a photonic sensor chip;

Fig. 11a shows a block diagram an embodiment of a packaged photonic sensor device.

Fig. 11b shows a block diagram another embodiment of a packaged photonic sensor device.

Fig. 12 to 14 show block diagrams of different embodiments of the photonic sensor chip;



[0031] Fig. 1 shows a schematic cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a photonic sensor chip 100. The photonic sensor chip 100 comprises a semiconductor substrate 112 having a front side 114 and a back side 116. The photonic sensor chip 100 includes a cavity 118 extending from the back side 116 through an entire depth of the semiconductor substrate 112, which is for example a silicon substrate. The cavity 118 provides access to the active surface of the photonic particle sensor element 120 from the back side 116 of the semiconductor substrate 112. A photonic particle sensor element 120 is arranged on the front side 114 of the semiconductor substrate in a photonic plane 124. The photonic particle sensor element 120 comprises an active-surface element 122 for capturing particles that is exposed for access from the back side 116 of the semiconductor substrate 100. In this embodiment the active-surface element 122 comprises a waveguide section 134 of a waveguide, which waveguide serves for guiding an optical input wave in a defined manner to the active-surface element 122, and further for guiding a resulting optical output wave to a light detector (not shown here), which is in this example a photodiode, of the photonic particle sensor element. Advantageously, the waveguide is embedded in oxide layers.

[0032] On the front side 114 of the semiconductor substrate 112 of the photonic sensor chip 100, electro-optical and electronic components 126 are arranged, and an electrical interconnect stack 130 is provided on top of the photonic plane 124. The electrical interconnect stack 130 comprises electrical interconnects 132 for conducting electrical operating power to the electro-optical and electronic components, including the light detector, and to conduct electronic signals to and from the electro-optical and electronic components to their respective destinations on chip or to an interface to external circuits. The opto-electronic and electronic components are fabricated using known front-end-of-line (FEOL) such as NMOS, PMOS, CMOS or BiCMOS, and the interconnect stack 132 can be fabricated using standard back-end-of-line (BEOL) technologies. The electronic components 126 can for instance form a circuit section or a complete circuit of a control unit, a data acquisition unit or other electrical circuitry.

[0033] The shown photonic sensor chip 100 makes sure that, in operation, a fluid or gas which transports particles to be detected at the active-surface element 122 in the cavity 118 will not get in contact with the front side 114 of the semiconductor substrate 112. In this example, the measuring solution is applied directly to the sensor surface as a drop. Thus, potential exposure of the photonic sensor chip 100 to a fluid or gas or to chemical reactions is restricted to the back side 116 of the semiconductor substrate 112.

[0034] The combination of photonic components with state-of-the-art silicon-based microtechnology is forms key to development of a biosensors according to embodiments of the present invention.

[0035] Thus, while prior art photonic devices are etched from the wafer surface and subsequently functionalized and electronic circuits located on the individual metal levels cannot be integrated, the innovative approach exemplifed by the embodiment of Fig. 1 uncovers the back of the photonic components. This approach enables for the first time an interaction between the analyte and the functionalized silicon waveguide and the simultaneous integration of electronic circuits on the chip top including the complete BEOL metallization layers.

[0036] Figs. 2 and 3 show two schematic views of another embodiment of a photonic sensor chip 200 that includes a microfluidic substrate 210. The following description will refer to both figures in parallel. The photonic sensor chip 200 of the present embodiment comprises a photonic sensor core 220, which in the present example is a photonic sensor chip 100 as shown and explained in the context of the description of Fig. 1. A microfluidic substrate 210 is attached to the photonic sensor core 220 on the back side 216 of its semiconductor substrate 212. The microfluidic substrate 210 comprises a microfluidic channel 230, which in the present example connects an inlet 240 for a fluid and an outlet 250 for the fluid with the cavity 218. Since the back of the photonic sensor core 220 is formed by a planar silicon surface, the integration of microfluidics is considerably simplified compared to frontal integration.

[0037] The connection of the microfluidic substrate 210 to the semiconductor substrate 212 can be realized by wafer bonding for many of the materials mentioned. The ability to use a wafer bonding technique thus forms an additional advantage of the of the structure of the photonic sensor chip 200 which substantially simplifies the fabrication process.

[0038] The integration of microfluidic system 210 on the back side 216 of the semiconductor substrate 212 allows at least one fluid or gas to contact the active surface of the active-surface element 222 for allowing a detection of particles contained in the fluid or gas. Further, the use of microfluidics can increase the sensitivity of the measurement.

[0039] A biosensor resulting from this design can implement a laboratory diagnostic procedure integrated on a chip (lab-on-a-chip) and, in contrast to conventional on-site diagnostic procedures, is characterized by its miniaturization, sensitivity, parallelization and diversification possibilities. The advantage of the photonic measurement method proposed here over other label-free technologies that have already been developed is, on the one hand, the high inherent sensitivity of the measurement principle, the independence of the measurement signal from the amount of bound water and the possibility of producing cost-effective disposable chips. This approach combines the advantages of optical sensor technology (as with SPR) with the possibilities of chip production (as with SAW). In this way, components are provided that are suitable for practical use in bioanalytics.

[0040] As mentioned different waveguide types can be used in different embodiments of a photonic sensor chip. Fig. 4 shows a schematic cross-sectional view of different embodiments having different waveguide types 400, as used in embodiments of the photonic sensor chip. Two different types of slot waveguides 410 are presented in Fig. 4. Both types of the slot waveguide 410 are fabricated from the back side 416 of the semiconductor substrate 412 of a photonic sensor chip. Both slot waveguide 400s are located on an island-like silicon-on-insulator (SOI) structure 414.

[0041] Fig. 5 shows a functionalized silicon waveguide section 500 for specific application using a photonic sensor chip. The waveguide 510 in this embodiment is made of silicon. Silicon can be functionalized with organosilanes, which have an organic group at one end. In this embodiment amino-propyl-triethoxisilane (APTES) 512 is used to chemically react in a silanization with the silicon waveguide 510. APTES has an amino-group at the end, which is not bonded to the silicon waveguide 510. The amino-group is covalently bonding biotin 514. Streptavidin molecules, which have a high affinity for biotin 514, are bonding to the biotin 514. Thus, a streptavidin 516 layer is formed. The streptavidin layer 516 can bind a biotinylated anti-CRP-complex 518, such that the waveguide section 500 has a functionalized surface section, which is suitable for specific detection of CRP molecules 520. Depending on the specification of the photonic sensor chip, other anti-complexes can be bonded.

[0042] Examples of biosensor designs are photonic devices that allow the conversion of a refractive index change into an evaluable signal. Examples of such transducer components are Mach-Zehnder interferometers, ring resonators and Fabry-Perot resonators. Fig. 6 shows illustrations of two different optical ring resonators 600 for use in a photonic sensor chip. Both ring resonator geometries form hybrid waveguide ring resonators. The ring resonators comprise a channel waveguide 610, such as in the upper example, or a slot waveguide 620, cf. the lower example. The detection limit for ring resonators is currently 10-5 RIU (refractive index unit). In order to realize a selective interaction of the optical input wave 630 with the active-surface element 640, the waveguide section 650 of the active-surface element is functionalized with specific ligands, as described above. Chip-integrated photonic sensors, such as optical ring resonators 600 can contribute to major advances in food diagnostics, environmental monitoring, veterinary diagnostics and medical technology through rapid and accurate analysis of a wide range of substances and offer the prospect of cost-effective on-site analysis.

[0043] Fig. 7 shows a diagram of functionalized surface sections of different waveguides 700 capturing particles using in a photonic sensor chip. The upper left diagram shows a channel waveguide 710 arranged on the active-surface element, which has a functionalized surface section 716 functionalized with specific ligands 712. The functionalized surface 716 section is exposed to a fluid or gas without selected particles to be captured. The upper right diagram shows the mentioned channel waveguide 710 exposed to a fluid or gas with selected particles 714 to be captured. The selected particles 714 were captured by the specific ligands 712. The same principle works for a slot waveguide 720, which is shown in the lower row.

[0044] Label-free detection of biomolecules is thus enabled by integrating a photonic resonator or interferometer structure into the chip along with other photonic and electronic components. In order to realize a selective interaction with the analyte, the silicon-based waveguide 710, 720 of the photonic device is functionalized with specific antibodies. When the analyte interacts with the antibody, the propagation of the light wave is influenced, the resonance condition changes and the resonance wavelength is shifted. The magnitude of the wavelength shift provides information about the amount of adsorbed analytes and thus about its concentration in the solution to be analysed. Fig. 8 shows transmission spectrum 800 of measurement of the situations shown in Fig. 7 with a photonic sensor chip. The black line 810 in Fig. 8 represents a resulting optical output wave from the active-surface element to a light detector, which is not influenced by captured specific particles. When the specific particles captured by the specific ligands 712 the optical input wave is influenced. The resonance condition changes and the resonance wavelength is shifted by Δλ (shown as red line in Fig. 8) resulting in a resulting optical output wave 820 from the active-surface element to a light detector, which is shifted by Δλ. The magnitude of the wavelength shift provides information about the amount of captured specific particles and thus about its concentration in the solution to be analysed.

[0045] With an ordinary silicon channel waveguide, the optical input wave is guided in the silicon waveguide and interacts only through an evanescent field with the captured specific particles. In comparison, silicon slit waveguides ensure a significantly increased interaction between the guided optical input wave and the captured specific particle, as a large part of the optical input wave up to 75 % is guided in the slit and in the vicinity of the silicon webs where the captured specific particle is located. Thus, slot waveguides show a 3.5-fold greater light-particle interaction compared to channel waveguides.

[0046] Fig. 9 shows an embodiment of a photonic sensor arrangement 900. The photonic sensor arrangement comprises a packaged photonic sensor device 910 and a light source for generating the optical input wave, and an optical coupling element 914 for coupling the optical input wave into the photonic plane of the photonic sensor chip 916. The packaged photonic sensor device can generally be packaged using state of the art solutions, and includes a hole for providing access to the active-surface element of the particle sensor element of the photonic sensor chip a usage of the inventive photonic sensor chip cost-effective. The packaged photonic sensor device can be used as disposable product. In this embodiment, the light source and the optical element are arranged inside a housing 918. The optical input wave is coupled into the photonic plane of the photonic sensor chip, for instance, by an optical fiber. The housing 918 also includes a data transmission unit configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit and to transmit the output signal to an external device an interface unit configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit and to indicate an amount of particles captured by the active surface. Such photonic sensor arrangement 900 has the advantage that it is portable, which is of particular importance for the practical implementation.

[0047] The photonic biosensor allows the selective and label-free detection of proteins or substances in general for which a specific capture molecule exists. Such evidence is relevant in many areas. Examples are the detection of proteins in food, toxins in the environment as well as the detection of substances in various body fluids in medical diagnostics or therapy monitoring. In addition, the sensor can also be used as a sensor without functionalizing the silicon surface. For example, it can be used as a gas sensor in which a change in refractive index is measured. An application for temperature measurement is also conceivable.

[0048] Fig. 10 shows a schematic cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a photonic sensor chip 1000. The photonic sensor chip 1000 has a semiconductor substrate 1012 having a front side 1014 and a back side 1016. The photonic sensor chip 1000 includes a cavity 1018 extending from the back side 1014 through an entire depth of the semiconductor substrate 1012, which is for example a silicon substrate. The cavity 1018 provides access to the active surface of the photonic particle sensor element 1020 from the back side 1014 of the semiconductor substrate 1012. A photonic particle sensor element 1020 is arranged on the front side 1014 of the semiconductor substrate 1012 in a photonic plane 1024. The photonic particle sensor element 1020 comprises an active-surface element 1022 for capturing particles that is exposed for access from the back side 1016 of the semiconductor substrate 1012. In this embodiment, the active-surface element 1022 comprises a waveguide section 1034 of a waveguide. An optical input wave is coupled into the photonic plane 1024 using a grating coupler 1026 arranged in the photonic plane 1024. The waveguide serves for guiding the optical input wave to the active-surface element, and further for guiding a resulting optical output wave to a light detector 1028, which in the present embodiment is a Ge-photodiode and is also arranged in the photonic plane 1024.

[0049] On the front side 1014 of the semiconductor substrate 1012 of the photonic sensor chip 1000, electronic components 1030 are arranged, which are fabricated using known front-end-of-line (FEOL) and the interconnect stack can be fabricated using standard back-end-of-line (BEOL) technologies. In this example, the FEOL fabrication involves manufacturing NMOS devices, PMOS devices and SiGe:C HBTs. The electronic components can for instance form a circuit section or a complete circuit of a control unit, a data acquisition unit or other electrical circuitry. The photonic sensor chip 1000 is thus a SiGe BiCMOS device 1036. A thermal heating element 1032 is arranged in a metal layer of an interconnect stack 1034 located above the functionalized surface section of the active-surface element. The electrical interconnect stack 1035 comprises electrical interconnects 1038 for conducting electrical operating power to the mentioned electro-optical and electronic components and to conduct electronic signals to and from the electro-optical and electronic components to their respective destinations on chip or to an interface to external circuits. In this embodiment, the waveguide in the photonic plane 1024 is arranged on a local island-like silicon-on-insulator (SOI) structure 1040 that is embedded in the bulk of the silicon substrate 1012. The SiGe BiCMOS 1036 is located next to the local island SOI 1040 on the bulk of silicon substrate 1012.

[0050] Fig. 11a shows a block diagram an embodiment of a packaged photonic sensor device 1100A. In this exemplary embodiment, the packaged photonic sensor device 1100A comprises a photonic sensor chip 1110A and an electronic control chip arranged on a carrier 1114. The electronic control chip electrically connected to the photonic sensor chip 1110A. The photonic sensor chip 1110A of the present embodiment is a photonic sensor chip 1110A as shown and explained in the context of the description of Fig. 1. The electronic control chip comprises a control unit 1112, which is configured to drive operation of the at least one photonic particle sensor element on the photonic sensor chip, and a data acquisition unit 1116, which is configured to sample an output signal of the light detector. Further, a data transmission unit 1118 configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit and an interface unit 1120 configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit 1116 and to indicate an amount of particles captured by the active surface are arranged in the electronic control chip.

[0051] For packaging, state of the art solutions can be used, including fabrication of a hole for providing access to the active-surface element of the particle sensor element of the photonic sensor chip 1112A.

[0052] Fig. 11b shows a block diagram another embodiment of a packaged photonic sensor device 1100B. In this embodiment, a photonic sensor chip 1110B and an electronic control chip 1111 are separately provided in separate chips, which may be individually packaged or provided in a system-on-chip and provided together in one package. For further details regarding the functionality of the photonic sensor chip 1110B and of the electronic control chip 1111 of this embodiment, reference is made to the description of Fig. 11a.

[0053] Figs. 12 to 14 show different possibilities to arrange a plurality of active-surface elements in the photonic sensor chip.

[0054] Fig. 12 shows a possibility to arrange five active-surface elements in parallel 1200. Each active-surface element 1210 is arranged upstream of a photodiode 1220, which is used as light detector. One laser 1230 is used as light source for all active-surface elements 1210. An optical input wave transmitted by the laser can be splited to respective active-surface elements 1210. Such a parallel arrangement enables the detection of different selected particles in parallel.

[0055] The signal-to-noise ratio of an optical output wave to be transformed into a corresponding electrical signal received by the light detector, can be increased by using a series connection of active-surface elements. Fig. 13 shows a possible arrangement to derive benefit of a parallel arrangement 1300 of the active-surface elements 1310 and a series connection of active-surface elements 1315. In contrast to the arrangement in Fig. 12 three active-surface elements in series connection are arranged upstream of respective photodiodes 11320. The arrangement of laser 1330 and photodiodes 1320 remains the same as in Fig. 12.

[0056] Fig. 14 displays an exemplarily arrangement 1400, where five lasers 1430A to 1430E and five photodiodes 1420A to 1420E are arranged in parallel. In between, three identical active-surface elements 1415A to 1415E are optically arranged in a series connection. Such arrangement of active-surface elements 1415A to 1415E allows to increase the signal-to-noise ratio of the resulting optical output wave to be transformed into a corresponding electrical signal by the photodiode due to the series connection. This arrangement 1400 also enables to detect of different selected particles in parallel due to the parallel connection.

[0057] As an application example of the photonic sensor chip, allergens in food (such as peanuts) or toxins (e.g. snake venom, toxic insects, scorpions, spiders, blue-green algae, mould poisons or poisonous fungi) can be investigated. Further applications of the photonic sensor chip are listed Table 1 below and can be followed or applied on the basis of the results obtained. The left column of the following table lists different analytes, and the right column list possible occurrences of the respective analytes.
Table 1- Application cases of the photonic sensor chip
analyteOccurrence
toxins nuts, corn, milk
 
  aflatoxins
  ergot alkaloids cereals
  fusarium toxins cereals, maize
  patulin Apples, pears
  ochratoxin Cereals, beer, wine, coffee, nuts, spices
bacteria eggs, poultry, water
  Salmonella (zoonoses)
  Escherichia coli raw milk, vegetables, water, minced beef, sprouts
  campylobacter Raw poultry meat
  shigella toxin food
viruses birds, pig
  Influenza A virus H1N1
allergens food
  gluten
antibiotics Waste water Meat Milk
  penicillins
hormones Water


[0058] An important application potential is currently seen in the detection of contaminations such as antibiotics in raw milk.

[0059] A cow is milked at least twice a day. The fresh raw milk is automatically piped into the cooling tank of the production plant. In principle, the raw milk is collected every one to two days from the producer in the milk collection truck. Depending on the vehicle type, this can hold between 10,000 and 25,000 litres. Once the smell, colour and temperature of the raw milk have been checked, it is pumped from the cooling tank into the milk collection truck. Milk samples are automatically taken and analysed in an independent laboratory or in the dairy. Once it arrives at the dairy, the raw milk is subjected to microbiological and chemical-physical checks for cleanliness, smell, taste, appearance, purity, fat content, acidity, germ content and weight. The milk is then pumped into large storage tanks. Seamless quality assurance from the producer to the refrigerated shelf is a matter of course for the German dairy industry. In order to further improve product safety, many dairies are developing additional quality assurance systems that go beyond the legal requirements. The close cooperation of all stakeholders within the value chain is crucial to ensure the production of safe and high quality products. The developed hybrid waveguide ring resonator can make a major contribution to this. In addition to fast on-site analysis, the sensor also enables digital evaluation and creation of databases without intermediate steps.

[0060] In summary, the solution proposed here considerably simplifies the development of a connection technique and the handling of the sensor, since the sensor surface is separated from the electronics and the light injection. This allows an analyte to interact with the sensor from the rear and does not interfere with further chip build-up. It is thus possible to manufacture the chip from the front with all the usual process steps, which also allows monolithic integration of the sensor. In monolithic integration, the photonic sensor is manufactured together with optoelectronic components (e.g. photodiodes) and electronic components. The bioanalytic part is accessible through the rear opening in the form of a cavity connecting to the optical sensor. For this purpose, a wafer, on which the photonic components are located, is etched from the reverse side in such a way that the areas with the sensor surfaces are exposed and can be functionalized with antibodies.

[0061] This also allows the integration of microfluidics on the back of the chip. Since the back of the chip consists of a planar silicon surface, the integration of microfluidics is considerably simplified compared to frontal integration.

[0062] The solution proposed has the following advantages:
  • Decentralized diagnostics without laboratory diagnostic prior knowledge
  • A mobile sensor platform enables fast on-site diagnostics
  • Measurement of several biological substances and parameters in parallel and in short time can be enabled
  • Functionalized surfaces with customized properties for bioanalytics
  • The optical biosensor can be used for almost any requirements in medicine and industry due to its adaptable and functional optical waveguides
  • Compatibility of photonic with electronic components on one chip without additional process steps (integration with separation of electrical and biosensory environment)
  • Low-cost in terms of manufacturing and disposal costs (due to the CMOS technology used and the avoidance of complex and very expensive flow cells)
  • Suitable for mass production, as the manufacturing and process technology is designed at wafer level
  • Low power requirements and extremely high compactness (this offers the possibility of sensor arrays on a small area and the realization of mobile, battery-powered devices)



Claims

1. A photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) comprising

- a semiconductor substrate (112, 212, 1012) having a front side (114, 214, 1014) and a back side (116, 216, 1016);

- at least one cavity (118, 218, 1018) extending from the back (116, 216, 1016) side through an entire depth of the semiconductor substrate (112, 212, 1012);

- a photonic plane (124, 1024) located on the front side (114, 214, 1014) of the semiconductor substrate (112, 212, 1012) and including

- at least one photonic particle sensor element (120, 1020) with an active-surface element (122, 222, 1022) having an exposed active surface facing towards the back side (116, 216, 1016) of the semiconductor substrate (112, 212, 1012) and configured for capturing selected particles from at least one fluid or gas to which the active surface is exposable, wherein the least one cavity (118, 218, 1018) provides access to the active surface from the back side (116, 216, 1016) of the semiconductor substrate (112, 212, 1012); and wherein

- the photonic particle sensor element (120, 1020) is configured to receive an optical input wave via the photonic plane (124, 1024), to expose particles captured by the active-surface element (122, 222, 1022) to interact with the optical input wave and to provide a resulting optical output wave having a spectral component indicative of the interaction between the optical input wave and the captured particles.


 
2. A photonic sensor chip (200) according to claim 1, wherein a microfluidic substrate (210) is connected to the back side (216) of the semiconductor substrate (212) and comprises at least one microfluidic channel (230) connecting an inlet for the fluid and an outlet (250) for the fluid with the cavity (218).
 
3. A photonic sensor chip (200) according to claim 2, wherein the microfluidic substrate (210) is made of a plastic, glass or semiconductor.
 
4. A photonic sensor chip (1000) according to any of the preceding claims, wherein the photonic particle sensor element (1020) comprises a waveguide arranged in the photonic plane (1024) for guiding the optical input wave to the active-surface element (1022) and for guiding the resulting optical output wave from the active-surface element (1022) to a light detector (1028) of the photonic particle sensor element (1020).
 
5. A photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) according to claim 4, wherein the active-surface element (122, 222, 1022) comprises a waveguide section (134, 650, 1034) of the waveguide (510, 610), wherein the waveguide section (134, 650, 1034)

- comprises at least one functionalized surface section (500) configured for capturing the selected particles by selective interaction, and

- has an optical path length that depends on an amount of particles captured by the active surface.


 
6. A photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) according to claim 5, wherein the photonic particle sensor element (120, 1020) comprises a plurality of active-surface elements (122, 222, 1022) optically arranged in a series connection and upstream of the light detector (1028).
 
7. A photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) according to one of the claims 4 to 6, wherein the functionalized surface section (500) is functionalized chemically.
 
8. A photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) according to one of the claims 4 to 6, wherein the functionalized surface section (500) is functionalized physically.
 
9. A photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) according to one of the claims 4 to 8, wherein the waveguide is substantially made of silicon, silicon nitride, silicon oxynitride or germanium.
 
10. A photonic sensor chip (1000) according to one of the claims 4 to 9, further comprising

- a control unit (1112), which is configured to drive operation of the at least one photonic particle sensor element (1022) on the photonic sensor chip (1000);

- a data acquisition unit (1116) configured to sample an output signal of the light detector (1028);

- an electrical interconnect stack (1030), which is arranged on top of the photonic plane (1024) and comprises electrical interconnects (1038) for conducting electrical operating power and to conduct electronic signals to and from the control unit and the data acquisition unit (1116).


 
11. A photonic sensor chip (1000) according to claim 10, further comprising

- an electrically drivable phase shifter element (1032); wherein

- the control unit (1112) receives the output signal of the light detector (1028) and is configured to drive operation of the phase shifter element (1032) in dependence on the received output signal in order to set and maintain a predetermined phase shift effected by the active-surface element (1022) alone.


 
12. A photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) according at least one of the preceding claims including claim 4, further comprising

- at least one light source (1230, 1330, 1430) connected to the waveguide and configured to generate and emit the optical input wave.


 
13. A packaged photonic sensor device (1100), comprising

- a photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) according to at least one of the preceding claims including claim 4;

- an electronic control chip (1111) electrically connected to the photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) arranged on the carrier (1114) and comprising a control unit (1112), which is configured to drive operation of the at least one photonic particle sensor element on the photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) and a data acquisition unit (1116) configured to sample an output signal of the light detector;

- a package enclosing the photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) and the electronic control chip (1111) and having an opening to ambient atmosphere facing the back side of the semiconductor substrate (112, 212, 1012) of the photonic sensor chip (100, 200, 1000) for providing access to the exposed active surface of the at least one photonic particle sensor element for the at least one fluid.


 
14. A photonic sensor arrangement (900), comprising, on a printed circuit board,

- a packaged photonic sensor device (1100, 910) according to claim 13, and

- a laser source (1230, 1330, 1430) for generating the optical input wave, and an optical coupling element (914) for coupling the optical input wave into the photonic plane (124) of the photonic sensor chip (100).


 
15. A photonic sensor arrangement (900) of claim 14, further comprising on the printed circuit board

- a data transmission unit (1118) configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit (1116) and to transmit the output signal to an external device; and

- an interface unit (1120) configured to receive the output signal from the data acquisition unit (1116) and to indicate an amount of particles captured by the active surface.


 




Drawing