Observation and analysis of the Coulter effect through carbon nanotube and graphene nanopores

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and graphene are the rolled and flat analogues of graphitic carbon, respectively, with hexagonal crystalline lattices, and show exceptional molecular transport properties. The empirical study of a single isolated nanopore requires, as evidence, the observation of stochastic, telegraphic noise from a blocking molecule commensurate in size with the pore. This standard is used ubiquitously in patch clamp studies of single, isolated biological ion channels and a wide range of inorganic, synthetic nanopores. In this work, we show that observation and study of stochastic fluctuations for carbon nanopores, both CNTs and graphene-based, enable precision characterization of pore properties that is otherwise unattainable. In the case of voltage clamp measurements of long (0.5–1 mm) CNTs between 0.9 and 2.2 nm in diameter, Coulter blocking of cationic species reveals the complex structuring of the fluid phase for confined water in this diameter range. In the case of graphene, we have pioneered the study and the analysis of stochastic fluctuations in gas transport from a pressurized, graphene-covered micro-well compartment that reveal switching between different values of the membrane permeance attributed to chemical rearrangements of individual graphene pores. This analysis remains the only way to study such single isolated graphene nanopores under these realistic transport conditions of pore rearrangements, in keeping with the thesis of this work. In summary, observation and analysis of Coulter blocking or stochastic fluctuations of permeating flux is an invaluable tool to understand graphene and graphitic nanopores including CNTs.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 374, 2060, 20150357-20150357

 Record created 2017-01-09, last modified 2018-03-17

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