Facile fabrication of nanofluidic diode membranes using anodic aluminium oxide†
Active control of ion transport plays important roles in chemical and biological analytical processes. Nanofluidic systems hold the promise for such control through electrostatic interaction between ions and channel surfaces. Most existing experiments rely on planar geometry where the nanochannels are generally very long and shallow with large aspect ratios. Based on this configuration the concepts of nanofluidic gating and rectification have been successfully demonstrated. However, device minimization and throughput scaling remain significant challenges. We report here an innovative and facile realization of hetero-structured Al2O3/SiO2 (Si) nanopore array membranes by using pattern transfer of self-organized nanopore structures of anodic aluminum oxide (AAO). Thanks to the opposite surface charge states of Al2O3 (positive) and SiO2 (negative), the membrane exhibits clear rectification of ion current in electrolyte solutions with very low aspect ratios compared to previous approaches. Our hetero-structured nanopore arrays provide a valuable platform for high throughput applications such as molecular separation, chemical processors and energy conversion.