Dr. Christopher James Backhouse, Professor, P.Eng.
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering and
Waterloo Institute of Nanotechnology,
University of Waterloo,
200 University Avenue West,
Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3G1, Canada

Phone: 519-888-4567 ext. 31467
Office: QNC 3622

Overview of Research (details below)

Professor Chris Backhouse has developed microelectronic, quantum and biomedical devices and their instrumentation, both in industry and in academic research. These have ranged from quantum devices for real-time, non-invasive imaging of brain activity, to microfluidic genetic analysis instrumentation. Other research areas have involved electrochemistry, radio-isotope manufacture, remote sensing and radio astronomy. Present activities are largely focused upon lab-on-chip devices and applications, often with CMOS integration. A developing area of his research is the use of lab-on-chip devices to explore quantum effects in biological systems. 

Most of this research starts with a quick test of a new idea. Sometimes this leads to further development and, once in a while, an exciting discovery. The work is curiosity-driven, and towards important goals.

Philosophy of Research

In my lab we seek to better understand the key mechanisms of the phenomena and technologies around us, typically as we develop applications of interest to industry. In this way we balance basic and applied research. Although we are interested in some of the big long-range questions, our activities are based on cycles of design, build and test. Our projects have ranged from trying to put a medical diagnostic on a USB key, to imaging brain activity with quantum devices.

  • Some of my research is very practical: how inexpensive can a genetic diagnostic be?
  • Some of my research is fundamental: is the brain a quantum device, and can we test that?
As my longest range research, I am curious about the role that quantum mechanics plays in biology and seek to develop new quantum devices based on nanobiotechnology.

General Research Areas (past, present and future)

This is a partial description of past work intended to give a broad description of the type of work that has been done. Much of it was not in an academic setting or was initial work that did not reach a conclusion suitable for publication.

In the future, most applied work will be upon the development of lab-on-chip applications. The longer-range (and hence not applied) work will be upon quantum biology.

  • Lab on chip devices and medical diagnostics
    • Handheld systems for chemical and biological analyses as in Kaigala/2010, 2009, 2008
    • Genotyping, e.g. Lim/2012, Chowdhury/2007, Footz/2004
    • Separation and molecular biology technology development as in Manage/2012, Crabtree/2012, Manage/2008
    • Diagnostic instrument development as in Kaigala in 2008-2010, Sieben/2008, Manage/2005
    • Electrical and other microvalves, e.g. Kaigala/2008
  • MEMS/MOEMS device and technology development 
    • Radioisotope production in MEMS structures, e.g. Gagnon/2011
    • Integrated waveguides for sensing and analysis, e.g. as in Bliss/2008
    • Rapid prototyping methods, e.g. Kaigala/2007
    • Integrated microheaters, e.g. Martinez-Quijada/2013
    • Photopolymer studies as in Reynolds/2012
    • Micro-scale laser spectroscopy, e.g. Godwal/2008
  • Biomedical engineering
    • Biocompatibility studies of patterned metals
    • Non-invasive characterisation of nanostructures in biological cells, e.g. Su/2009, Pilarski/2008
    • Intra-ocular pressure sensing, e.g. Coakwell/2006
    • Study of the role of otoliths in animal navigation
  • CMOS integration 
    • Neural network implementations in CMOS
    • Entire instruments on a single CMOS chip, e.g. Behnam/2010
  • Quantum devices (High and low Tc tunnel devices, nanobiotechnology-based devices)
    • Advanced superconductor materials and SQUIDs, e.g. Chrzanowski/1995
    • Fabrication of Josephson junctions in high and low Tc materials
  • Microelectronic and optoelectronic (III-V) semiconductor devices/technologies
    • Advanced resistive films, e.g. Backhouse/1997
    • Advanced sputter technology, e.g. Backhouse/1996
    • Electrochemical studies of Ta, e.g. Young/1995
    • Chaos and electrical instabilities in III-V semiconductors, e.g. Backhouse/1994
  • Remote sensing (see also intraocular sensing above) 
    • Non-contact wafer characterisation, e.g. Moore/2005
    • Harmonic radar tracking of insects, e.g. Roland/1996
  • Radio astronomy/astrophysics 
    • Mapping of the galactic plane and studies of supernovae (MSc, 1987)
    • Pulsar studies, e.g. Gregory/1989