Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Chemistry

Department

Chemistry

First Advisor

Jason Dwyer

Abstract

Nanopores, nanometer sized holes in membranes, have recently come into prominence as tools for single molecule sensing. A technique called nanopore force spectroscopy uses the nanopore to probe energy landscapes between molecules. With the development of this technique, it will be possible for molecular recognition in complex fluids, such as blood. However, before that can be possible, solid-state nanopores, commonly fabricated in silicon nitride membranes, and having very confined sizes and charged surfaces, need to be optimized to minimize unwanted interactions between solution-phase molecules and the surface. DNA, for example, a crucial part of nanopore force spectroscopy, frequently sticks to the nanopore surface. Surface functionalization techniques, both on the nanopore and molecular surface, were attempted in this thesis work. These surface functionalization methods aimed to reduce surface charge or alter molecular properties in order to minimize the unwanted surface interactions, and they include silane modification, fluid lipid bilayer coating, and surfactant self-assembly on the DNA phosphate backbone. Results from some of these methods yield insights to improve nanopore force spectroscopy performance that will minimize the unwanted surface interactions and deliver on the promise of nanopore sensing.

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