Int. J. Communications, Network and System Sciences, 2011, 4, 709-719
doi:10.4236/ijcns.2011.411087 Published Online November 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
On the Performance of ISFET-Based Device for Water
Quality Monitoring
Pawan Whig, Syed Naseem Ahmad
Research Scho l ar , Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering,
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India
Received September 7, 2011; revised October 4, 2011; accepted October 20, 2011
A new configuration realizing water quality monitoring device using ISFET involving low power CMOS
Integrated “Ion Sensitive Field Effect transistor (ISFET)—Operational Amplifier is presented. The study’s
main focus is on simulation of power and performance analysis of ISFET device, which is used for water
quality monitoring. This approach can improve calibration of device to a fairly wide range without the use of
a high speed digital processor. The conventional device has a drawback of slow slew rate but in this novel
design, the device has a better slew rate. A new slew rate enhancement (SRE) incorporated into a ISFET,
which does not affect the small signal frequency response. The functionality of the circuit is tested using
Tanner simulator version 15 for a 70 nm CMOS process model also the transfer function realization is done
on MATLAB R2011a version, the Very high speed integrated circuit Hardware description language (VHDL)
code for the same scheme is simulated on Xilinx ISE 10.1 and various simulation results are obtained. Simu-
lation results are included to demonstrate the results.
Keywords: ISFET, Slew Rate, Calibration, Simulation, Monitoring Applications, pH Value, Alkalinity
1. Introduction
Monitoring the pH of water resources and sewage dis-
charge for water pollution is typical and necessary task in
today’s overdeveloped scenario. The normal pH for sur-
face water systems is 6.5 - 8.5 and for ground water sys-
tem 6 - 8. Water with low pH is acidic, corrosive and
contains several toxic materials which are very danger-
ous for health, but the water having pH more than 8.5 is
called hard water which does not contain harmful mate-
rials but the long use of such kind of water can cause
aesthetic problems [1-3]. With the invention of ISFET [4]
there has been a rapid development of pH Measurement
Instruments [5]. With the further advancement of semi-
conductor technology ISFET emerged as a standard de-
vice. In spite of the fact that ISFET Sensor has been de-
veloped 30 years ago [6], several drawback of ISFET
sensor remained unsolved, such as phenomena of fluc-
tuation with time and temperature variations. This cause
in drift in the pH values [7], and result in poor and slow
response [8] of the device. The second phenomenon is
pH dependent Temperature Coefficient [9] and non lin-
ear temperature dependent mobility in MOSFETS of
ISFET device [10]. Also it was observed that in ISFET
drift rate has an exponential incremental tendency with
pH values as well as Temperature.
In Urban water supply system, the water quality de-
termining indices such as pH value and turbidity are
monitored continuously. When the indices exceed the
limiting value, the system will effectively handle the treat-
ment against deterioration ensuring the safety of water.
Water is vital for all known forms of life. Many research
works have contributed to design water quality measure-
ing devices. But it has always been a challenge to find a
precise and accurate device for monitoring the quality of
The concept of pH was first introduced by Danish
chemist Soren Peder Lauritz Sorensen at the Carlsberg
Laboratory in 1909 and revised to the modern pH in
1924 after it became apparent that electromotive force in
cells depended on activity rather than concentration of
hydrogen ions. The pH is a measure of the acidity or
basicity of an aqueous solution.
The use of micro sensors for infield monitoring of en-
vironmental parameters is gaining interest due to their
advantages over conventional sensors. In the field of
micro sensors for environmental applications, Ion Selec-
tive Field Effect Transistors (ISFETs) has proved to be
of special application. They are particularly helpful for
measuring pH and other ions in small volumes and they
can be integrated in compact flow cells for continuous
measurements and monitoring [11-16].
Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0
at 25˚C (77 F). Solutions with a pH less than seven (7)
are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than
seven (7) are basic or alkaline.
This study highlights a performance analysis of low
power CMOS Integrated “Ion Sensitive Field Effect
transistor (ISFET)—Operational Amplifier. The studies
mainly focus on the simulation of power and perform-
ance analysis of ISFET device, which is used for water
quality monitoring applications [17-23]. This approach
can improve calibration of device to a fairly wide range
without the use of a high speed digital processor. The
conventional device generally used, consumes high
power and is not stable with temperature and frequency
variations for long term monitoring. The conventional
device has a drawback of slow slew rate but in this novel
design the device has a fairly good slew rate this device
has a simple architecture, and hence is very suitable for
the water quality monitoring application. In this novel
design, the device is free from noise and other effect and
is seen consuming low power of the order of 13 µW.
The paper is organized as follows: Section 2 de-
scribes the ISFET, Section 3 explains the device de-
scription and mathematical modeling and, Section 4
Simulation and result analysis, Section 5 gives the re-
sults and conclusions and Section 6 present the future
works to be done.
An ISFET is an ion-sensitive field-effect transistor which
has a property of measuring ion concentrations in solu-
tion; when the ion concentration (such as H+) changes,
the current through the transistor will change accordingly
[5]. Here, the solution is used as the gate electrode. A
voltage between substrate and oxide surfaces arises due
to an ions’ sheath.
The ISFET has the similar structure as that of the
MOSFET except that the poly gate of MOSFET is re-
moved from the silicon surface and is replaced with a
reference electrode inserted inside the solution, which is
directly in contact with the hydrogen ion (H+) sensitive
gate electrodeas shown in Figure 1 [6].
At the interface between gate insulator and the solu-
tion, there is an electric potential difference that depends
on the concentration of H+ of the solution, or so called,
pH value. The variation of this potential caused by the
pH variation will lead to modulation of the drain current
[7]. As a result, the Id-Vgs transfer characteristic of the
ISFET, working in triode region, can be observed similar
with that of MOSFET:
ox gsth isfetDSds ds
The threshold voltage is only different in case of
MOSFET. In ISFET, defining the metal connection of
the reference electrode as a remote gate, the threshold
voltage is given by:
Ref eol
VE q
Qox Qss
where ERef is Potential of reference electrode, 1
the potential drop between the reference electrode and
the solution, which typically has a value of 3 mV [8].
Ψeol is the potential which is pH-independent; it can be
viewed as a common-mode input signal for an ISFET
interface circuit in any pH buffer solution and can be
nullified during system calibration and measurement
procedures with a typical value of 50 mV [9].
the surface dipole potential of the solvent being inde-
pendent of pH.
The terms in the parentheses are almost the same as
that of the MOSFET threshold voltage except that of
absence of the gate metal function. The other terms in
above equation are a group of chemical potential, among
which the only chemical input parameter shown has to be
a function of solution pH value. This chemical dependent
Figure 1. Sub circuit block of ISFET macro model.
ISFET Sensor
Based OPAM
Vo l tage
Figure 2. Block diagram of monitoring device.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
is the “work function” difference’ between
the electrode in contact with the electrolyte and the
i, is the interface charge sandwiched
between the dual dielectric of the ISFET gate QSS, is a
lumped interface and fixed charge referred to the ox-
ide/silicon interface Cl is the top gate dielectric capaci-
tance per unit area, Cin is the total gate capacitance per
unit area, NB is the bulk doping, VSB is the source-to-bulk
reverse bias,
is the Fermi-level of the silicon bulk, S
is the sensitivity factor of the top pH sensing insulator
and pHpZc is the point-of-zero-charge of the sensing in-
sulator of the ISFET.
characteristic has already been explained by the Hal and
Eijkel’s theory [15] which is elaborated using the general
accepted site-binding model and the Gouy-Chapman-
Stern model.
3. Device Description and Mathematical
The basic structure of the device consists of three major
parts, (I) ISFET (II) Inductor section, and (III) voltage
follower, as shown in Figure 2. The proposed circuit of
device is shown above, in which the output of the ISFET
sensor is fed into one of the terminal of the voltage fol-
lower, which helps from the loading effect and keeping
the voltage level constant irrespective of the change in the
current value .This practise increases the sensitivity of the
sensor, and even a very small value can be observed at the
The circuit functions as follows: when the ISFET-
operational amplifier is configured as a voltage follower
as shown in Figure 3 the output voltage (Vo) is equal to
the input voltage (Vin); any difference in threshold volt-
ages and bias currents between the two input transistors
at the differential input stage will also appear at the out-
put. The output voltage of the device is found to be As
oinmsESpzc o
oin i
 (3) s
  (6)
where Vin is the offset voltage which is temperature and
light sensitive but chemically insensitive. The offset:
voltage includes terms arising from the mismatch of the
total gate capacitances (Cin), semiconductor bulk charges
Under ideal condition the Op-Amp Ri = and thus
, insulator interface charges
(Qss, Ql), and transistor gain
between the MOS-
FET and the ISFET.
ISFET Sensor Based Op-Amp
The threshold voltage of a dual dielectric gate ISFET is
given by
The ideal reference electrode commonly employed in
combination with the ISFET sensor as shown in Figure 4
serves two functions:
2.303pH pH
 
SS l
in lin
qN V
kT S
1) to provide an electrical contact to the test electrolyte
and thus define the electrical potential of the electrolyte;
Figure 3. Equivalent circuit of device.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Figure 4. Block diagram Representation of ISFET based
and 2) to provide an electrode-electrolyte interface po-
tential invariant with the electrolyte composition such
that the dependence of the threshold voltage of the IS-
FET on the electrolyte composition arises only from the
electrolyte-insulator interface of the ISFET.
4. Simulation and Result Analysis
The circuit of the Op-amp based Ion Sensitive Field
Effect Transistor (ISFET) is implemented on Tanner tool
version-15. The device is modeled on 250 nm technology
as shown in Figure 5 and the output results of T-spice
command file and output waveform of the transient
analysis are found and shown in Figures 6 and 7. From
the transient analysis it is observed that the output wave-
form is not linear. This shows that the slew rate of the
device is poor. To improve the slew rate, a simulated
inductor is placed at the output and the analysis results as
computed are shown in the Figures 8-10. It may be seen
that there is a significant improvement in the slew rate
when a simulated inductor is placed parallel to the load at
the output. Figures 11-13 show the RTL diagram of the
device, the components used in device, VHDL instan-
tiation created from source file results obtained when the
VHDL code of the device is simulated on Xilinx ISE 10.1.
The synthesis file and power result obtained by simu-
lation of the circuit is shown in appendix at the end of the
paper. In this proposed design, the device is free from
interference effects. It also consumes much low power, in
order of 13 µW. The output observed in Figure 9. is
highly linear, indicating that the device is stable for a
large dynamic range of input signals.
In the above Tab le 1 shows the various readings of the
device during the transient analysis.
Table 2 Shows the various process parameters used in
the proposed scheme and it is observed that the Averge
power consumed by the device is 13 µW and the max
power consumed is 16 µW under the current range of 1
µA - 50 µA.
Figure 5. Circuit diagram of device.
Figure 6. T-Spice file for the above circuit.
Figure 7. Output waveform of the above circuit.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Figure 8. Circuit diagram of device using inductor.
Figure 9. T-Spice file for the above circuit.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Figure 10. Output waveform of devic e using simulate d induc tor .
Figure 11. RTL diagram of device.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Figure 12. Objects used in the device.
Figure 13. VHDL instantiation created from source file.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Table 1. Transient analysis.
Time<s> V(in 1)<V> V(out)<V>
0.000000e+000 0.0000e+000 0.0000e+000
1.250000e–010 1.2500e–001 9.5606e–002
6.786460e–010 6.7865e–001 5.4378e–001
9.554690e–010 9.5547e–001 7.8071e–001
1.093880e–009 1.0939e+000 8.39976e–001
1.316775e–009 1.3168e+000 1.0922e+000
1.600582e–009 1.6006e+000 1.3394e+000
1.922991e–009 1.9230e–000 1.6229e–000
2.303210e–009 2.3032e+000 1.9608e+000
2.758169e–009 2.7582e+000 2.3703e+000
3.296876e–009 3.2969e+000 2.8964e+000
3.931074e–009 3.9311e+000 3.4780e+000
4.678083e–009 4.6781e+000 4.2192e+000
5.000000e–009 5.0000e+000 4.5821e+000
Table 2. Device process parameters.
Process Parameters
Power Supply 5 V
Load Regulation 3.93
Line Regulation 0.6 m
Current Range 1 A - 50 A
Average Power Consumed 13 W
Max power 16 W
5. Conclusions
A new slew rate enhancement (SRE) circuit which is
targeted for ISFET driving with large capacitive load has
been presented in this paper. In the proposed design, the
device is free from interference effects and seen con-
suming much low power, in order of 13 µW. There is the
significant improvement in the slew rate when a simu-
lated Inductor is placed parallel to the load at the output.
The output. is highly linear, indicating that the device is
stable. Both simulation and power results obtained on
Xilinx ISE 10.1 and Tanner Tool-15 justify a significant
improvement in slew rate and power consumption by
using the proposed SRE circuit.
6. Future work
This study can be extended and more improvement in
terms of power and size can be achieved at layout level
and thus more effective results can be obtained.
7. References
[1] C. Jimenez-Jorquera, J. Orozoo and A. Baldi, “ISFET
Based Microsensors for Environmental Monitoring,” Jour-
nal of Sensors, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2010, pp. 61-83.
[2] F. M. Klaassen and W. Hes, “On the Temperature Coef-
ficient of the MOSFET Threshold Voltages,” Solid-State
Electronics, Vol. 29, No. 8, 1986, pp. 787-789.
[3] [Online].
[4] P. Bergveld, “Development of an Ion-Sensitive Solid-
State Device for Neurophysiologic Measurements,” IEEE
Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, Vol. 17, No. 1,
1970, pp. 70-71. doi:10.1109/TBME.1970.4502688
[5] D. M. Wilson, S. Hoyt, J. Janata, K. Booksh and L.
Obando, “Chemical Sensors for Portable, Handheld Field
Instruments,” IEEE Sensors Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4, 2001,
pp. 256-274. doi:10.1109/7361.983465
[6] P. Bergveld, “Thirty Years of ISFETOLOGY What Hap-
pened in the Past 30 Years and What May Happen in the
Next 30 Years,” Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, Vol.
88, No. 1, 2000, pp. 1-20.
[7] S. Jamasb, S. D. Collins and R. L. Smith, “A Physiccal
Model for Threshold Voltage Insability in SI3N4 Gate H+
Sensitive FETs,” IEEE Tranactions on Electron Devices,
Vol. 45 No. 6, 1998, pp. 1239-1245.
[8] L. J. Bousse, D. Hafeman and N. Tran, “Time Depend-
ence of the Chemical Response of Silicon Nitride Sur-
faces,” Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, Vol. 1, No.
1-6, 1991, pp. 361-367.
[9] P. R. Barabash, R. S. C. Cobbold and W. B. Wlodarski,
“Analysis of the Threshold Voltage and Its Temperature
Dependence in Electrolyte-in Sulator—Semiconductor
Field Effect Transistor,” IEEE Transactions on Elec-
tronic Devices, Vol. 34, No. 6, 1987, pp. 1271-1282.
[10] N. S. Haron, M. K. B. Mahamad, I. A. Aziz and M. Me-
hat, “A System Architecture for Water Quality Monitor-
ing System Using Wired Sensors,” International Sympo-
sium on Information Technology, Kuala Lumpur, 26-28
August 2008, pp. 1-7. doi:10.1109/ITSIM.2008.4631927
[11] S. Martinoia and G. Massobrio, “A Behaviour Macro-
Model of the ISFET in SPICE,” Sensors and Actuators B:
Chemical, Vol. 62, No. 3, 2002, pp. 182-189.
[12] B. Palan, F. V. Santos and J. M. Karam, “New ISFET
Sensor Interface Circuit for Biomedical Applications,”
Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, Vol. 57, No. 1-3,
1999, pp. 63-68. doi:10.1016/S0925-4005(99)00136-7
[13] C. H. Yang, W. Y. Chung, K. K. Lin, D. G. Pijanowska
and W. Torbicz, “A Low-Power Telemetric System De-
sign for ISFET-Based Sensor Array Applications,” 16th
European Conference on Circuit Theory and Design, Kra-
ków, 1-4 September 2003, pp. 260-263.
[14] A. Morgenshtein, L. Sudakov-Boreysha and U. Dinnar,
“CMOS Readout Circuitry for ISFET Micro-Systems,”
Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, Vol. 97, No. 1, 2004,
pp. 122-131. doi:10.1016/j.snb.2003.08.007
[15] R. E. G. Van Hal, J. C. T. Eijkel and P. Bergveld, “A
Novel Description of ISFET Sensitivity with the Buffer
Capacity and Double-Layer Capacitance as Key Parame-
ters,” Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, Vols. 24-25,
No. 1-3, 1995, pp. 201-205.
[16] Y.-H. Chang, Y.-S. Lu, Y.-L. Hong, S. Gwo and J. A.
Yeh, “Highly Sensitive pH Sensing Using an Indium Ni-
tride Ion-Sensitive Field-Effect Transistor,” Vol. 11, No.
5, 2011, pp. 1157-1161.
[17] M. Lindquist and P. Wide, “New Sensor System for
Drinking Water Quality,” Proceedings the ISA/IEEE Sen-
sors for Industry Conference, New Orleans, August 2004,
pp. 30-34.
[18] R. M. Wen, Z. L. Zhu and S. L. Chen, “Preparation of
high purity water with low concentration of dissolved
oxygen (DO) and total organic carbon (TOC) for VLSI
process,” Proceeding of 6th International Conference
Solid-State and Integrated-Circuit Technology, Shanghai,
22-25 October 2001, p. 475-476.
[19] T.-Z. Qiao and L. Song, “The Design of Multi-Parameter
Online Monitoring System of Water Quality Based on
GPRS,” 2010 International Conference on Multimedia
Technology, Ningbo, 29-31 October 2010, pp. 1-3.
[20] B. R. Jean, “A Microwave Sensor for Steam Quality,”
IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement,
Vol. 57, No. 4, 2008, pp. 751-754.
[21] J. C. Chou, H. M. Tsai, C. N. Shiao and J. S. Lin, “Study
and Simulation of the Drift Behavior of Hydrogenated
Amorphous Silicon Gate pH-ISFET,” Sensors and Ac-
tuators B: Chemical, Vol. 62, No. 2, 2000, pp. 97-101.
[22] S. Casans, A. E. Navarro, D. Ramirez, J. M. Espi, N.
Abramova and A. Baldi, “Instrumentation System to Im-
prove ISFET Behaviour,” Proceeding of 19th IEEE In-
strumentation and Measurement Technology Conference,
Anchorage, 21-23 May 2002, pp. 1291-1294.
[23] S. Jamasb, “An Analytical Technique for Counteracting
Drift in Ion-Selectivefield Effect Transistors (ISFETs),”
IEEE Sensors Journal, Vol. 4, No. 6, 2004, pp. 795-801.
Synthesis file
Release 10.1 - xst K.31 (nt)
Copyright (c) 1995-2008 Xilinx, Inc. All rights re-
--> Parameter TMPDIR set to C:/Users/Project Lab
Total REAL time to Xst completion: 1.00 secs
Total CPU time to Xst completion: 0.13 secs
--> Parameter xsthdpdir set to C:/Users/Project Lab
Total REAL time to Xst completion: 1.00 secs
Total CPU time to Xst completion: 0.13 secs
--> Reading design: Cell0.prj
*Synthesis Options Summary*
---- Source Parameters
Input File Name : “Cell0.prj”
Input Format : mixed
Ignore Synthesis Constraint File : NO
---- Target Parameters
Output File Name : “Cell0”
Output Format : NGC
Target Device : Automotive 9500XL
---- Source Options
Top Module Name : Cell0
Automatic FSM Extraction : YES
FSM Encoding Algorithm : Auto
Mux Extraction : YES
Resource Sharing : YES
---- Target Options
Add IO Buffers : YES
MACRO Preserve : YES
XOR Preserve : YES
Equivalent register Removal : YES
---- General Options
Optimization Goal : Speed
Optimization Effort : 1
Library Search Order : Cell0.lso
Keep Hierarchy : YES
Netlist Hierarchy : as_optimized
RTL Output : Yes
Hierarchy Separator : /
Bus Delimiter : <>
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS
Case Specifier : maintain
erilog 2001 : YES
---- Other Options
Clock Enable : YES
wysiwyg : NO
* Final Report *
Final Results
RTL Top Level Output File Name : Cell0.ngr
Top Level Output File Name : Cell0
Output Format : NGC
Optimization Goal : Speed
Keep Hierarchy : YES
Target Technology : Automotive 9500XL
Macro Preserve : YES
XOR Preserve : YES
Clock Enable : YES
wysiwyg : NO
Design Statistics
# IOs : 4
Cell Usage :
# IO Buffers : 4
# IBUF : 1
# OBUF : 3
# Others : 16
# Capacitor : 1
# NMOS : 7
# PMOS : 4
# VoltageSource : 4
Total REAL time to Xst completion: 3.00 secs
Total CPU time to Xst completion: 2.50 secs
Total memory usage is 166132 kilobytes
Number of errors : 0 (0 filtered)
Number of warnings : 0 (0 filtered)
Number of infos : 0 (0 filtered)
Power Analys is
* T-Spice 13.02 Simulation Fri Oct 07 15:57:37 2011
* Command line: tspice –o
* T-Spice Win32 13.02.20080516.01:34:09
Time<s> v(in1)<V> v(out)<V>
0.000000e+000 0.0000e+000 0.0000e+000
1.250000e-010 1.2500e-001 9.5606e-002
6.786460e-010 6.7865e-001 5.4378e-001
9.554690e-010 9.5547e-001 7.8071e-001
1.093880e-009 1.0939e+000 8.9976e-001
1.316775e-009 1.3168e+000 1.0922e+000
1.600582e-009 1.6006e+000 1.3394e+000
1.922991e-009 1.9230e+000 1.6229e+000
2.303210e-009 2.3032e+000 1.9608e+000
2.758169e-009 2.7582e+000 2.3703e+000
3.296876e-009 3.2969e+000 2.8694e+000
3.931074e-009 3.9311e+000 3.4780e+000
4.678083e-009 4.6781e+000 4.2192e+000
5.000000e-009 5.0000e+000 4.5821e+000
Power Results
vdd from time 0 to 5e-009
Average power consumed -> 1.304338e-005 watts
Max power 1.635414e-005 at time 5e-009
Min power 0.000000e+000 at time 0
* Parsing 0.00 seconds
* Setup 0.01 seconds
* DC operating point 0.00 seconds
* Transient Analysis 0.01 seconds
* Overhead 1.20 seconds
* -----------------------------------------
* Total 1.23 seconds
* Simulation completed with 1 Warning
* End of T-Spice output file
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. IJCNS