Functional nanopores: A solidstate concept for artificial reaction compartments and molecular factories

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On the road towards the long-term goal of the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering to create artificial molecular factories, we aim at introducing a compartmentalization strategy based on solid-state silicon technology targeting zeptoliter reaction volumes and simultaneous electrical contact to ensembles of well-oriented molecules. This approach allows the probing of molecular building blocks under a controlled environment prior to their use in a complex molecular factory. Furthermore, these ultra-sensitive electrical conductance measurements allow molecular responses to a variety of external triggers to be used as sensing and feedback mechanisms. So far, we demonstrate the proof-of-concept by electrically contacting selfassembled mono-layers of alkane-dithiols as an established test system. Here, the molecular films are laterally constrained by a circular dielectric confinement, forming a so-called 'nanopore'. Device yields above 85% are consistently achieved down to sub-50 nm nanopore diameters. This generic platform will be extended to create distributed, cascaded reactors with individually addressable reaction sites, including interconnecting microfluidic channels for electrochemical communication among nanopores and sensing sites for reaction control and feedback. In this scientific outlook, we will sketch how such a solid-state nanopore concept can be used to study various aspects of molecular compounds tailored for operation in a molecular factory.


29 Jun 2016