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Nanopores on the back cover of Chemical Society Reviews

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Paper conceived during the 2020 lockdown reviews new fabrication methods that democratise the use of solid-state nanopores

Oeiras, 4 May 2021

A paper co-written by ITQB NOVA researchers is featured on the back cover of the latest edition of the Chemical Society Reviews journal. The article is a review of techniques that facilitate the fabrication of in-situ solid-state nanopores in electrolyte environments, which can be used in applications such as DNA sequencing and protein analysis. ITQB NOVA’s James Yates and co-authors at the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and the Queen Mary University of London, gathered information and analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of each method. ITQB NOVA researcher Oscar Rojas produced the beautiful back cover artwork.

Nanopores are pores with dimensions comparable to those of biopolymers and nanoparticles. They can be formed by pore-forming proteins or created in solid-state membranes. The latter are the subject of the newly published review article, as the research team is interested in their many applications. Traditionally, techniques to fabricate solid-state nanopores have been time-consuming or lacked the resolution to create pores with diameters down to a few nanometres. The techniques reviewed in this paper are alternative methods, developed in the last few years, which take advantage of electrolyte environments to fabricate solid-state nanopores.

These environments provide the ability to quickly and easily fabricate nanopores with diameters as small as 2nm (i.e. comparable to the size of many important biopolymers). The in situ methods include controlled breakdown (CBD), electrochemical reactions (ECR), laser etching, and laser-assisted controlled breakdown (la-CBD). The paper also discusses the suitability of each technique according to the desired application and provides insights into future research directions for in situ nanopore fabrication methods.

The article was born during the 2020 lockdown imposed in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The international team was working in a consortium focused on optimising nanopore materials and processes with an emphasis on understanding how dielectric properties influence nanopore fabrication and performance. With research institutions closed all over Europe and unable to proceed with laboratory work, the researchers turned to writing this review. The aim of the review was to summarise the current state of the art while at the same time trying to convince newcomers that nanopore-based detection is now within their capabilities and budgets.


Cover artwork: Kindly provided, not to mention expertly drawn, by Oscar A. Lenis-Rojas (ITQB NOVA).

Original paper:
Chemical Society Reviews, DOI:10.1039/D0CS00924E

In situ solid-state nanopore fabrication
Jasper P. Fried, Jacob L. Swett, Jan A. Mol, Joshua B. Edel, Aleksandar P. Ivanov and  James R. Yates


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