Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Physics & Astronomy

First Advisor

Marija Drndic

Abstract

Nanopore sensors have developed into powerful tools for single-molecule studies since their inception two decades ago. Nanopore sensors function as nanoscale Coulter counters, by monitoring ionic current modulations as particles pass through a nanopore. While nanopore sensors can be used to study any nanoscale particle, their most notable application is as a low cost, fast alternative to current DNA sequencing technologies. In recent years, signifcant progress has been made toward the goal of nanopore-based DNA sequencing, which requires an ambitious combination of a low-noise and high-bandwidth nanopore measurement system and spatial resolution. In this dissertation, nanopore sensors in thin membranes are developed to improve dimensional resolution, and these membranes are used in parallel with a high-bandwidth amplfier. Using this nanopore sensor system, the signals of three DNA homopolymers are differentiated for the first time in solid-state nanopores. The nanopore noise is also reduced through the addition of a layer of SU8, a spin-on polymer, to the supporting chip structure. By increasing the temporal and spatial resolution of nanopore sensors, studies of shorter molecules are now possible. Nanopore sensors are beginning to be used for the study and characterization of nanoparticles. Nanoparticles have found many uses from biomedical imaging to next-generation solar cells. However, further insights into the formation and characterization of nanoparticles would aid in developing improved synthesis methods leading to more effective and customizable nanoparticles. This dissertation presents two methods of employing nanopore sensors to benet nanoparticle characterization and fabrication. Nanopores were used to study the formation of individual nanoparticles and serve as nanoparticle growth templates that could be exploited to create custom nanoparticle arrays. Additionally, nanopore sensors were used to characterize the surface charge density of anisotropic nanopores, which previously could not be reliably measured. Current nanopore sensor resolution levels have facilitated innovative research on nanoscale systems, including studies of DNA and nanoparticle characterization. Further nanopore system improvements will enable vastly improved DNA sequencing capabilities and open the door to additional nanopore sensing applications.

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