Nanofluidics is concerned with fluidic channels that are typically 1–100 nm in size. We have fabricated nanofluidic devices using both 1-D silica nanotubes and 2-D nanochannels to explore transport phenomena at the nanoscale. Here we review our work on 2-D nanochannels that provide confinement in one dimension. Our work mainly deals with two aspects of nanofluidics (a) effects related to electrostatic interactions and (b) effects related to biomolecule size. Surface charge plays an important role in nanofluidic channels, when the channel size is comparable to the Debye length. Using both electrical conductance measurements and fluorescence imaging, we studied the effects of surface charge in our nanofluidic devices, and demonstrated that the environment in nanochannels is governed by surface charge. We modified the nanochannel surface and showed that these modifications can be sensed by measuring ionic conductance of the nanochannels. Further, binding reactions involving biomolecules can be sensed at both low and high ionic concentrations. Our results showed that at low concentrations, conductance is governed by biomolecule charge, while at high concentrations it is governed by biomolecule size. Based on electrostatic effects in nanochannels, we also developed a nanofluidic transistor for flow control. This metal-oxide-solution field effect transistor was fabricated by patterning a metal gate electrode over nanochannels, similar to a MOSFET. Just as the gate voltage of a MOSFET controls carrier concentration in the semiconductor, we demonstrated that the gate voltage in a nanofluidic transistor controls the concentration of ions and biomolecules in the nanochannel, and hence controls their transport. Our fabrication process uses standard lithography, and is amenable to making networks of nanochannels. It suggests that rationally designed nanofluidic networks could be developed using this process for applications in sample preparation, sensing and switching. We are currently studying flow control and switching using field-effect, as well as ionic transport using patterned surface charge in nanofluidic devices.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.