Office for Technology Commercialization

Manipulating and Detecting Particles and Molecules

Technology #20170332

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Sang-Hyun Oh, PhD
Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
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Steve Koester
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
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Managed By
Kevin Nickels
Technology Licensing Officer 612-625-7289
Patent Protection

Provisional Patent Application Filed
Graphene-edge dielectrophoretic tweezers for trapping of biomolecules
Nature Communications, Vol 8, 1867 (2017)

Graphene Electrodes Sensing Small Molecules

Atomically thin surfaces, such as the edges of 2D materials like graphene, can be used as graphene electrodes in dielectrophoresis for sensing and trapping small particles and molecules. Specifically, the atomically sharp 2D graphene edges act as a “lightning rod” for electrical and optical fields. Upon biasing such electrodes, particles or molecules suspended in a solution will be rapidly attracted and trapped alongside their sharp edges. Advantages of this technology are potentially higher sensitivity, rapid detection and tunable optical properties. The edges are sensitive spots for electrical, optical, or chemical detection of such objects, making this technology very attractive for biochemical sensing. The trapping scheme can serve as optical, electrical, electrochemical or plasmonic sensors by integrating them into lab-on-chip devices, chip-based arrays or other electronics.

2D Graphene Electrodes

Dielectrophoretic or electrokinetic trapping of biological objects currently uses micro- or macroscale metal electrodes, which limit detection ability. Other methods, such as fabricating carbon nanotube (CNT) or other nanomaterials with sharp edges, has proved difficult. This approach uses 2D graphene materials as multifunctional electrodes. Sensors based on edges of monolayer graphene trap and detect DNA and nanodiamonds particles via dielectrophoresis (DEP). Another advantage is that graphene edges can be reproducibly prepared.


  • Selective trapping of nanoparticles and molecules, tunable sensing of molecules
  • Atomically thick electrodes
  • Integrated into lab-on-chip and solid state sensor devices
  • Potentially higher sensitivity
  • Rapid detection
  • Flexible and tunable optical properties


  • Biosensors; platform biosensing technology (e.g., nanopore DNA sequencing)
  • Sensing and trapping small particles and molecules
  • Diagnostic chips
  • Optical, chemical, electrical, electrochemical or plasmonic sensor platforms

Phase of Development - Prototype development/working prototype

Interested in Licensing?
The University relies on industry partners to scale up technologies to large enough production capacity for commercial purposes. The license is available for this technology and would be for the sale, manufacture or use of products claimed by the issued patents. Please contact Kevin Nickels to share your business needs and technical interest in this technology and if you are interested in licensing the technology for further research and development.