Beyond nanopore sizing: Improving solid-state single-molecule sensing performance, lifetime, and analyte scope for omics by targeting surface chemistry during fabrication

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Solid-state nanopores (SSNs) are single-molecule resolution sensors with a growing footprint in real-time bio-polymer profiling - most prominently, but far from exclusively, DNA sequencing. SSNs accessibility has increased with the advent of controlled dielectric breakdown (CDB), but severe fundamental challenges remain: drifts in open-pore current and (irreversible) analyte sticking. These behaviors impede basic research and device development for commercial applications and can be dramatically exacerbated by the chemical complexity and physical property diversity of different analytes. We demonstrate a SSN fabrication approach attentive to nanopore surface chemistry during pore formation, and thus create nanopores in silicon nitride (SiNx) capable of sensing a wide analyte scope - nucleic acid (double-stranded DNA), protein (holo-human serum transferrin) and glycan (maltodextrin). In contrast to SiNx pores fabricated without this comprehensive approach, the pores are Ohmic in electrolyte, have extremely stable open-pore current during analyte translocation (>1 h) over a broad range of pore diameters (3 - ∼30 nm) with spontaneous current correction (if current deviation occurs), and higher responsiveness (i.e. inter-event frequency) to negatively charged analytes (∼6.5 in case of DNA). These pores were fabricated by modifying CDB with a chemical additive - sodium hypochlorite - that resulted in dramatically different nanopore surface chemistry including ∼3 orders of magnitude weaker Ka (acid dissociation constant of the surface chargeable head-groups) compared to CDB pores which is inextricably linked with significant improvements in nanopore performance with respect to CDB pores.

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