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Engineered nanopores for biomolecular applications

In nature, there are several examples of nanoscale gateways able to control the passage of molecules with remarkable precision. These biological structures inspired EU-funded research aiming to engineer nanopores that mimic a lot of their functionalities.
Engineered nanopores for biomolecular applications
The ACTIVE NANOPORES (Active polymer-functionalized nanopores) project was dedicated to the development of solid-state nanopores in layers of various materials, including metals. Researchers created nanopores in thin gold films with 20 to 50-nm thickness and slightly thicker metal-insulator-metal systems.

Researchers used a new theoretical framework to describe the optical properties of these new types of nanostructures that penetrate through multiple layers of metal films with insulators in between. Surface plasmons were used for the optical detection of interactions on their surfaces.

To gain functionalities similar to those seen in pore complexes that control what molecules are allowed to enter the nuclei of eukaryotic cells, researchers attached soft materials to nanopores' surfaces. Polymers, in particular, possessed the characteristics needed to mimic biological systems.

By functionalising nanopores, the same type of selective barriers was created that only allows targeted molecules to pass through, opening up the way for applications in biomolecular filtration and entrapment. ACTIVE NANOPORES research has indicated the means to tackle complex mixtures of biomolecules, like proteins.

Importantly, nanometre-sized gateways open and close by means of electric signals. The metal films can be used as electrodes, offering electrical control over the nanostructures as well as the possibility to change temperature and pH locally on their surface.

The ACTIVE NANOPORES outcome can become an integral part of micro-scale analytical platforms and even increase the specificity of biosensors. Nanopores represent a type of surface suitable for the analysis of molecular interactions based on optical spectroscopy or electrochemical readout.

Related information


Life Sciences


Nanopores, biomolecular, ACTIVE NANOPORES, polymer, metal-insulator-metal
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