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Soft electrostatic trapping in nanofluidics

Michael A. Gerspach , Nassir Mojarad, Deepika Sharma , Thomas Pfohl, and Yasin Ekinci. Microsystems & Nanoengineering (2017) 3, 17051

Trapping and manipulation of nano-objects in solution are of great interest and have emerged in a plethora of fields spanning from soft condensed matter to biophysics and medical diagnostics. We report on establishing a nanofluidic system for reliable and contact-free trapping as well as manipulation of charged nano-objects using elastic polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)-based materials. This trapping principle is based on electrostatic repulsion between charged nanofluidic walls and confined charged objects, called geometry-induced electrostatic (GIE) trapping. With gold nanoparticles as probes, we study the performance of the devices by measuring the stiffness and potential depths of the implemented traps, and compare the results with numerical simulations. When trapping 100 nm particles, we observe potential depths of up to Q ≅ 24 kBT that provide stable trapping for many days. Taking advantage of the soft material properties of PDMS, we actively tune the trapping strength and potential depth by elastically reducing the device channel height, which boosts the potential depth up to Q ~ 200 kBT, providing practically permanent contactfree trapping. Due to a high-throughput and low-cost fabrication process, ease of use, and excellent trapping performance, our method provides a reliable platform for research and applications in study and manipulation of single nano-objects in fluids.

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