New Approach in Fabrication of Solid-State Nanopore for Bio-Sensing Applications

Title: New Approach in Fabrication of Solid-State Nanopore for Bio-Sensing Applications
Authors: Kwok, Wing Hei Harold
Date: 2015
Abstract: The 21st century marks the defining point of human history in terms of technological advancement. In 2014, we were at the edge of acquiring a complete understanding of the fundamental construct to all life forms. The capability to manipulate and recreate lives as desired will soon be at our hands and will eventually lead to the redefinition of life and humanity. This brave new world, for better or worse, will be stitched together by scientific breakthroughs in many disciplines. Nanopore fluidic system – and microfluidic in general – might be one of the key puzzles towards the future. It is seen as a likely candidate for the next generation of rapid and low-cost genetic sequencing technology, which will allow us to gain thorough insight into the genetic code of every living organism on earth. It can also have the capability to individually detect and manipulate virtually any biological molecules, possibly allowing it to be a universal diagnostic tool or a bio-molecule synthesiser. The future of nanopore fluidic system is prosperous, but the difficulties are equally challenging. Currently, both biological and solid-state nanopores are non-trivial to create. For instance, a small solid-state nanopore can only be fabricated with expansive machinery in a low-yield, low-throughput manner. To overcome this challenge, a new set of methods involving high electric field to fabricate and enlarge a solid-state nanopore has been developed. It was found that a nanopore, when subjected to a high electric field, can be enlarged in angstrom increments and cleared of unidentified obstructions that cause low-frequency ionic current fluctuations. It was also found that an intact solid-state membrane, when subjected to a high electric field for a period of time, can leave a single nanopore imprinted onto it. The process of creation is best describe as a dielectric breakdown event and can be modeled by the percolation theory for dielectric breakdown. The resulting nanopores are cylindrical in shape and are shown to be equally capable of single molecule sensing compare to pores created by other methods. To accommodate future nanopore designs and applications and to examine the scope of applicability of the new fabrication approach, more advanced nanopore devices were created on some dual-layer solid-state membranes comprising of a metallic and a dielectric layer. Experiments indicated that the method could indeed create nanopore on such advanced membranes. It was further shown that the metallic layer receded further than the dielectric layer, forming a hollow conical shape at the opening of the dielectric nanopore. Such metalized bi-layer nanopore system was found to interact strongly with short single stranded DNA molecules, resulting in prolonged DNA translocation time. A simple picture of the mechanism was proposed to explain the observation. Lastly, to extend the limit of the new fabrication approach, I attempted to fabricate nanopore on complex multi-layer membranes involving a graphene film sandwiched in several dielectric materials. It was found that the quality of the graphene film and the transfer method were vital to the success of this project. Nevertheless, preliminary results indicated that the new method could create a nanopore through this complex multi-layer membrane. The new method to fabricate and tune both simple and complex nanopores is amongst the simplest, the least costly and the most efficient one that one can imagine. The research work has already sparked a dramatic increase in scientific throughput in our laboratory and other laboratories we had collaboration with. It fueled more than a dozen projects and involved close to a thousand nanopores in total. Such projects are far from possible if they were to rely on conventional fabrication methods. However, these are insignificant if we consider the new method is simple enough that, for the very first time, general public can easily access nanofabrication and single-molecule manipulation technology. The liberation of nanotechnology to the general public symbolically marks the beginning of a brave new world.
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -