Regulating DNA translocation through functionalized soft nanopores
Nanopores have emerged as promising next-generation devices for DNA sequencing technology. The two major challenges in such devices are: (i) find an efficient way to raise the DNA capture rate prior to funnelling a nanopore, and (ii) reduce the translocation velocity inside it so that single base resolution can be attained efficiently. To achieve these, a novel soft nanopore comprising a solid-state nanopore and a functionalized soft layer is proposed to regulate the DNA electrokinetic translocation. We show that, in addition to the presence of an electroosmotic flow (EOF), which reduces the DNA translocation velocity, counterion concentration polarization (CP) occurs near the entrance of the nanopore. The latter establishes an enrichment of the counterion concentration field, thereby electrostatically enhancing the capture rate. The dependence of the ionic current on the bulk salt concentration, the soft layer properties, and the length of the nanopore are investigated. We show that if the salt concentration is low, the ionic current depends largely upon the length of the nanopore, and the density of the fixed charge of the soft layer, but not upon its degree of softness. On the other hand, if it is high, ionic current blockade always occurs, regardless of the levels of the other parameters. The proposed soft nanopore is capable of enhancing the performance of DNA translocation while maintaining its basic signature of the ionic current at high salt concentration. The results gathered provide the necessary information for designing devices used in DNA sequencing.