Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Chair

Nancy C. Giles

Committee Co-Chair

Lawrence A. Hornak


Biosensor direct detection of molecular binding events is of significant interest in applications from molecular screening for cancer drug design to bioagent detection for homeland security and defense. The Stacked Planar Affinity Regulated Resonant Optical Waveguide (SPARROW) structure based on coupled waveguides was recently developed to achieve increased sensitivity within a fieldable biosensor device configuration. Under ideal operating conditions, modification of the effective propagation constant of the structure's sensing waveguide through selective attachment of specific targets to probes on the waveguide surface results in a change in the coupling characteristics of the guide over a specifically designed interaction length with the analyte. Monitoring the relative power in each waveguide after interaction enables 'recognition' of those targets which have selectively bound to the surface. However, fabrication tolerances, waveguide interface roughness, biolayer surface roughness and biolayer partial coverage have an effect on biosensor behavior and achievable limit of detection (LOD). In addition to these influences which play a role in device optimization, the influence of the spatially random surface loading of molecular binding events has to be considered, especially for low surface coverage. In this dissertation an analytic model is established for the SPARROW biosensor which accounts for these nonidealities with which the design of the biosensor can be guided and optimized. For the idealized case of uniform waveguide transducer layers and biolayer, both theoretical simulation (analytical expression) and computer simulation (numerical calculation) are completed. For the nonideal case of an inhomogeneous transducer with nonideal waveguide and biolayer surfaces, device output power is affected by such physical influences as surface scattering, coupling length, absorption, and percent coverage of binding events. Using grating and perturbation techniques we explore the influence of imperfect surfaces and random surface loading on scattering loss and coupling length. Results provide a range of achievable limits of detection in the SPARROW device for a given target size, surface loading, and detectable optical power.