Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering–Engineering Mechanics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


Craig R Friedrich


As awareness of potential human and environmental impacts from toxins has increased, so has the development of innovative sensors. Bacteriorhodopsin (bR) is a light activated proton pump contained in the purple membrane (PM) of the bacteria Halobacterium salinarum. Bacteriorhodopsin is a robust protein which can function in both wet and dry states and can withstand extreme environmental conditions. A single electron transistor(SET) is a nano-scale device that exploits the quantum mechanical properties of electrons to switch on and off. SETs have tremendous potential in practical applications due to their size, ultra low power requirements, and electrometer-like sensitivity.

The main goal of this research was to create a bionanohybrid device by integrating bR with a SET device. This was achieved by a multidisciplinary approach. The SET devices were created by a combination of sputtering, photolithography, and focused ion beam machining. The bionanomaterial bacteriorhodopsin was created through oxidative fermentation and a series of transmembrane purification processes. The bR was then integrated with the SET by electrophoretic deposition, creating a bionanohybrid device. The bionanohybrid device was then characterized using a semiconductor parametric analyzer. Characterization demonstrated that the bR modulated the operational characteristics of the SET when bR was activated with light within its absorbance spectrum.

To effectively integrate bacteriorhodopsin with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), it is critical to know the electrical properties of the material and to understand how it will affect the functionality of the device. Tests were performed on dried films of bR to determine if there is a relationship between inductance, capacitance, and resistance (LCR) measurements and orientation, light-on/off, frequency, and time. The results indicated that the LCR measurements of the bR depended on the thickness and area of the film, but not on the orientation, as with other biological materials such as muscle. However, there was a transient LCR response for both oriented and unoriented bR which depended on light intensity.

From the impedance measurements an empirical model was suggested for the bionanohybrid device. The empirical model is based on the dominant electrical characteristics of the bR which were the parallel capacitance and resistance. The empirical model suggests that it is possible to integrate bR with a SET without influencing its functional characteristics.