Ion transport in graphene nanofluidic channels†
Carbon nanofluidic structures made of carbon nanotubes or graphene/graphene oxide have shown great promise in energy and environment applications due to the newly discovered fast and selective mass transport. However, they have yet to be utilized in nanofluidic devices for lab-on-a-chip applications because of great challenges in their fabrication and integration. Herein we report the fabrication of two-dimensional planar graphene nanochannel devices and the study of ion transport inside a graphene nanochannel array. A MEMS fabrication process that includes controlled nanochannel etching, graphene wet transfer, and vacuum anodic bonding is developed to fabricate graphene nanochannels where graphene conformally coats the channel surfaces. We observe higher ionic conductance inside the graphene nanochannels compared with silica nanochannels with the same geometries at low electrolyte concentrations (10−6 M–10−2 M). Enhanced electroosmotic flow due to the boundary slip at graphene surfaces is attributed to the measured higher conductance in the graphene nanochannels. Our results also suggest that the surface charge on the graphene surface, originating from the dissociation of oxygen-containing functional groups, is crucial to the enhanced electroosmotic flow inside the nanochannels.