Nanoparticle mechanics: deformation detection via nanopore resistive pulse sensing†
Solid-state nanopores have been widely used in the past for single-particle analysis of nanoparticles, liposomes, exosomes and viruses. The shape of soft particles, particularly liposomes with a bilayer membrane, can greatly differ inside the nanopore compared to bulk solution as the electric field inside the nanopores can cause liposome electrodeformation. Such deformations can compromise size measurement and characterization of particles, but are often neglected in nanopore resistive pulse sensing. In this paper, we investigated the deformation of various liposomes inside nanopores. We observed a significant difference in resistive pulse characteristics between soft liposomes and rigid polystyrene nanoparticles especially at higher applied voltages. We used theoretical simulations to demonstrate that the difference can be explained by shape deformation of liposomes as they translocate through the nanopores. Comparing our results with the findings from electrodeformation experiments, we demonstrated that the rigidity of liposomes can be qualitatively compared using resistive pulse characteristics. This application of nanopores can provide new opportunities to study the mechanics at the nanoscale, to investigate properties of great value in fundamental biophysics and cellular mechanobiology, such as virus deformability and fusogenicity, and in applied sciences for designing novel drug/gene delivery systems.