Noncovalent functionalization of solid-state nanopores via self-assembly of amphipols†
In recent years there has been increasing interest in the development of new methods for conferring functional features to nanopore-based fluidic devices. In this work, we describe for the first time the noncovalent integration of amphoteric–amphipathic polymers, also known as “amphipols”, into single conical nanopores in order to obtain signal-responsive chemical nanodevices. Highly-tapered conical nanopores were fabricated by single-sided chemical etching of polycarbonate foils. After etching, the surface of the conical nanopores was chemically modified, by first metallizing the surface via gold sputtering and then by amphiphilic self-assembly of the amphipol. The net charge of adsorbed amphipols was regulated via pH changes under the environmental conditions. The pH-dependent chemical equilibrium of the weak acidic and basic monomers facilitates the regulation of the ionic transport through the nanopore by adjusting the pH of the electrolyte solution. Our results demonstrate that functional amphipathic polymers are powerful building blocks for the surface modification of nanopores and might ultimately pave the way to a new means of integrating functional and/or responsive units within nanofluidic structures.