Food contamination by aflatoxins is an urgent global issue due to its high level of toxicity and the difficulties in limiting the diffusion. Unfortunately, current detection techniques, which mainly use biosensing, prevent the pervasive monitoring of aflatoxins throughout the agri-food chain. In this work, we investigate, through ab initio atomistic calculations, a pyrrole-based Molecular Field Effect Transistor (MolFET) as a single-molecule sensor for the amperometric detection of aflatoxins. In particular, we theoretically explain the gate-tuned current modulation from a chemical-physical perspective, and we support our insights through simulations. In addition, this work demonstrates that, for the case under consideration, the use of a suitable gate voltage permits a considerable enhancement in the sensor performance. The gating effect raises the current modulation due to aflatoxin from 100% to more than 103÷104%. In particular, the current is diminished by two orders of magnitude from the μA range to the nA range due to the presence of aflatoxin B1. Our work motivates future research efforts in miniaturized FET electrical detection for future pervasive electrical measurement of aflatoxins.
Keywords: 8PyDT; AFB1; aflatoxin; amperometric detection; atomistic simulations; electrical detection; gold electrodes; molecular FET; molecular junction; pyrrole; single-molecule FET; single-molecule electronics; single-molecule sensor.