pH-regulated ionic current rectification in conical nanopores functionalized with polyelectrolyte brushes
Mimicking biological ion channels capable of pH-regulated ionic transport, synthetic nanopores functionalized with pH-tunable polyelectrolyte (PE) brushes have been considered as versatile tools for active transport control of ions, fluids, and bioparticles on the nanoscale. The ionic current rectification (ICR) phenomenon through a conical nanopore functionalized with PE brushes whose charge highly depends upon the local solution properties (i.e., pH and background salt concentration) is studied theoretically for the first time. The results show that the rectification magnitude, as well as the preferential rectification direction, is sensitive to the pH stimulus. The bulk concentration of the background salt can also significantly influence the charge of the PE brushes and accordingly affect the ICR phenomenon. The obtained results provide an insightful understanding of the pH-regulated ICR and guidelines for designing nanopores functionalized with PE brushes for pH-tunable applications.