Stochastic pore blocking and gating in PDMS-glass nanopores from vapor-liquid phase transitions

Steven Shimizu, Mark Ellison, Kimberly Aziz, Qing Hua Wang, Zachary Ulissi, Zachary Gunther, Darin Bellisario, Michael Strano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is commonly used in research for microfluidic devices and for making elastomeric stamps for soft lithography. Its biocompatibility and nontoxicitiy also allow it to be used in personal care, food, and medical products. Herein we report a phenomenon observed when patch clamp, a technique normally used to study biological ion channels, is performed on both grooved and planar PDMS surfaces, resulting in stochastic current fluctuations that are due to a nanopore being formed at the interface of the PDMS and glass surfaces and being randomly blocked. Deformable pores between 1.9 ± 0.7 and 7.4 ± 2.1 nm in diameter, depending on the calculation method, form upon patching to the surface. Coulter blocking and nanoprecipitation are ruled out, and we instead propose a mechanism of stochastic current fluctuations arising from transitions between vapor and liquid phases, consistent with similar observations and theory from statistical mechanics literature. Interestingly, we find that [Ru(bpy)3] 2+, a common probe molecule employed in nanopore research, physisorbs inside these hydrophobic nanopores blocking all ionic current flow at concentrations higher than 1 × 10-4 M, despite the considerably larger pore diameter relative to the molecule. Patch clamp methods are promising for the study of stochastic current fluctuations and other transport phenomenon in synthetic nanopore systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9641-9651
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry C
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 16 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • General Energy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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