In this project, we focus on sensor modules using electromagnetic waves (EMW) in the 30 to 330 GHz range to probe in a non-destructive, label-free and immobilization-free way the weak chemical interactions that occur in biophysical processes. The VUB-ETRO-department has patented several a high-Q sensor front-end modules with world record dielectric permittivity sensitivities in combination with a dynamic range over 100 dB. To fully exploit the sensor capabilities in professional laboratories and in industrial process monitoring, several fundamental, technical issues need to be tackled such as fast and intelligent auto-calibration, long-term drift compensation, advanced ultra-sensitive temperature control and compensation, increased measurement speed for monitoring fast biochemical processes. To tackle those applications and to improve the sensor performance in practical conditions, low-cost and compact measurement modules compatible with advanced narrow-band permittivity sensor front-ends will be developed. The complete system will consist of a dedicated self-assembled narrow-band millimeter wave network analyzer (MVNA) provided with a fast and intelligent sensor calibration system and additional modules for specific applications. The first objectives of this thesis consist in the elaboration of an automatic-calibration of the sensor using a software controlled tuning-element and a compact portable MVNA. This MVNA will be designed taking into account cost and the specifications of the sensor. To achieve this goal, the pros and cons of the architectures found in the literature will be investigated. Moreover, this part of the system can be validated with cheap ethanol-water samples. Afterwards, the other modules that are composed of hardware components and a software function, will be integrated step by step to the existing system. Each module will tackle the before mentioned issues of drift and instability, of local temperature variations, and the high-speed reaction. At the end of each module development, the proposed solution will be tested on specific applications such a slow protein crystallization processes, temperature induced DNA denaturation, and fast enzyme catalyzed interactions. This part of the work will be executed in collaboration with biotechnology colleagues of VUB. The future developed system will be benefit for the team of Prof. Johan Stiens working in Giga-Tera Lab (VUB-ETRO-LAMI) which has successfully developed mm-W sensors front-ends for various applications. For the field tests, a compact and low cost measurement instrument will be developed, that also will be versatile in order to be used for different applications.
Effective start/end date1/01/1631/12/17

ID: 21102013