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Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
208 North Wright Street Urbana, Illinois 61801


Office hours 8:30a - 5:00p


Phone: 217-333-3097
Fax: 217-244-6375


Brian T. Cunningham

Brian T. Cunningham

2000 Micro and Nanotechnology Lab
208 N. Wright Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
(217) 265-6291
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Electrical and Computer Engineering
2000 Micro and Nanotechnology Lab
208 N. Wright Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801
(217) 265-6291
Send Email

Ph.D. Electrical and Computer Engineering University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1990

Research Statement:

My research group is focused on the application of sub-wavelength optical phenomena and fabrication methods to the development of novel devices and instrumentation for the life sciences. The group is highly interdisciplinary, with expertise in the areas of microfabrication, nanotechnology, computer simulation, instrumentation, molecular biology, and cell biology. In particular, we are working on biosensors based upon photonic crystal concepts that can either be built from low-cost flexible plastic materials, or integrated with semiconductor-based active devices, such as light sources and photodetectors, for high performance integrated detection systems.

Using a combination of micrometer-scale and nanometer-scale fabrication tools, we are devising novel methods and materials for producing electro-optic devices with nanometer-scale features that can be scaled for low-cost manufacturing. Many of our techniques are geared for compatibility with flexible plastic materials, leading to applications such as low cost disposable sensors, wearable sensors, flexible electronics, and flexible displays. Because our structures manipulate light at a scale that is smaller than an optical wavelength, we rely on computer simulation tools such as Rigorous Coupled Wave Analysis (RCWA) and Finite Difference Time Doman (FDTD) to model, design, and understand optical phenomena within photonic crystals and related devices.

In addition to fabricating devices, our group is also focused on the design, prototyping, and testing of biosensor instrumentation for high sensitivity, portability, and resolution. Advanced instruments enable high resolution imaging of biochemical and cellular interactions with the ability to monitor images of biochemical interactions as a function of time. Using the sensors and instrumentation, we are exploring new applications for optical biosensor technology including protein microarrays, biosensor/mass spectrometry systems, and microfluidics-based assays using nanoliter quantities of reagents. The methods and systems developed in the laboratory are applied in the fields of life science research, drug discovery, diagnostic testing, and environmental monitoring.
Research Interests:
  • Optical Biosensors
  • Photonic Crystals
  • Nanofabrication
  • Finite Difference Time Domain Analysis
  • Sensor design and instrumentation
For more information:
Nano Sensors Group
SRU Biosystems

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements:

  • National Academy of Inventors, 2014
  • Fellow of the Optical Society of America, 2014
  • 2013 Massachusetts Excellence Award, SRU Biosystems, Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce
  • IEEE Sensors Council Distinguished Lecturer, 2013
  • Chairperson, NIH Study Section on Instrument and System Development, 2012-2014
  • Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), 2012
  • Fellow of IEEE, 2012
  • Medical Scholars Program Outstanding Advisor Award, 2010
  • Engineering Council Award for Excellence in Advising, 2010
  • Senior Member, IEEE, 2007
  • Army Research Fellowship, 1987-1990
  • Semiconductor Research Corporation Fellowship Award University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1987
  • Bronze Tablet University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1986

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements for Teaching:

  • Incomplete list of faculty rated "excellent" by students, Fall 2005, Spring 2007, Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements for Research:

  • 2014, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS) Technical Achievement Award
  • 2010 IEEE Sensors Council Technical Achievement Award "For the invention, development, and commercialization of sensors and detection instruments based on photonic crystals."
  • 2009 Association for Laboratory Automation Innovation Award Top Candidate for paper "A General Method for Screening Protein-DNA Interactions using Label-Free Photonic Crystal Biosensor Microplates" by L.L. Chan, M. Pineda, J. Heeres, P.J. Hergenrother, and B.T. Cunningham
  • 2008 Grainger Program in Emerging Technologies Grant for "Nanofilter-based Infrared Spectroscopic Imaging" (co-awarded with Prof. Rohit Bhargava)
  • 2008 Xerox Award for Faculty Research
  • 2007 3M Nontenured Faculty Grant
  • 2006 Draper Laboratory Best Patent Award, "Flexural Plate Wave Sensor and Array"
  • 1996 Draper Laboratory Engineering Lead Project: "MEMS Chemical Analysis Array"