Chemically Functionalizing Controlled Dielectric Breakdown Silicon Nitride Nanopores by Direct Photohydrosilylation

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Nanopores are a prominent enabling tool for single-molecule applications such as DNA sequencing, protein profiling, and glycomics, and the construction of ionic circuit elements. Silicon nitride (SiNx) is a leading scaffold for these <100 nm-diameter nanofluidic ion-conducting channels, but frequently challenging surface chemistry remains an obstacle to their use. We functionalized more than 100 SiNx nanopores with different surface terminations - acidic (Si-R-OH, Si-R-CO2H), basic (Si-R-NH2), and nonionizable (Si-R-C6H3(CF3)2) - to chemically tune the nanopore size, surface charge polarity, and subsequent chemical reactivity and to change their conductance by changes of solution pH. The initial one-reaction-step covalent chemical film formation was by hydrosilylation and could be followed by straightforward condensation and click reactions. The hydrosilylation reaction step used neat reagents with no special precautions such as guarding against water content. A key feature of the approach was to combine controlled dielectric breakdown (CDB) with hydrosilylation to create and functionalize SiNx nanopores. CDB thus replaced the detrimental but conventionally necessary surface pretreatment with hydrofluoric acid. Proof-of-principle detection of the canonical test molecule, λ-DNA, yielded signals that showed that the functionalized pores were not obstructed by chemical treatments but could translocate the biopolymer. The characteristics were tuned by the surface coating character. This robust and flexible surface coating method, freed by CDB from HF etching, portends the development of nanopores with surface chemistry tuned to match the application, extending even to the creation of biomimetic nanopores.

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ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces