Ultra-Thin Solid-State Nanopores: Fabrication and Applications

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Ultra-Thin Solid-State Nanopores: Fabrication and Applications

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Title: Ultra-Thin Solid-State Nanopores: Fabrication and Applications
Author: Kuan, Aaron
Citation: Kuan, Aaron. 2016. Ultra-Thin Solid-State Nanopores: Fabrication and Applications. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: Solid-state nanopores are a nanofluidic platform with unique advantages for single-molecule analysis and filtration applications. However, significant improvements in device performance and scalable fabrication methods are needed to make nanopore devices competitive with existing technologies. This dissertation investigates the potential advantages of ultra-thin nanopores in which the thickness of the membrane is significantly smaller than the nanopore diameter. Novel, scalable fabrication methods were first developed and then utilized to examine device performance for water filtration and single molecule sensing applications.

Fabrication of nanometer-thin pores in silicon nitride membranes was achieved using a feedback-controlled ion beam method in which ion sputtering is arrested upon detection of the first few ions that drill through the membrane. Performing fabrication at liquid nitrogen temperatures prevents surface atom rearrangements that have previously complicated similar processes. A novel cross-sectional imaging method was also developed to allow careful examination of the full nanopore geometry.

Atomically-thin graphene nanopores were fabricated via an electrical pulse method in which sub-microsecond electrical pulses applied across a graphene membrane in electrolyte solution are used to create a defect in the membrane and controllably enlarge it into a nanopore. This method dramatically increases the accuracy and reliability of graphene nanopore production, allowing consistent production of single nanopores down to subnanometer sizes.

In filtration applications in which nanopores are used to selectively restrict the passage of dissolved contaminants, ultra-thin nanopores minimize the flow resistance, increasing throughput and energy-efficiency. The ability of graphene nanopores to separate different ions was characterized via ionic conductance and reversal potential measurements. Graphene nanopores were observed to conduct cations preferentially over anions with selectivity ratios of 100 or higher for pores as large as 20 nm in diameter, suggesting that porous graphene membranes can be used to create highly effective cation exchange membranes for electrodialysis filtration. These surprisingly high selectivities cannot be explained by current models of ionic conduction in graphene nanopores, motivating the development of a new model in which elevated concentrations of mobile cations near the graphene surface generate additional ion selectivity.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:33493498
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