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Tiny channels carry big information
Date:12/14/2010

They say it's the little things that count, and that certainly holds true for the channels in transmembrane proteins, which are small enough to allow ions or molecules of a certain size to pass through, while keeping out larger objects. Artificial fluidic nanochannels that mimic the capabilities of transmembrane proteins are highly prized for a number of advanced technologies. However, it has been difficult to make individual artificial channels of this size until now.

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have been able to fabricate nanochannels that are only two nanometers (2-nm) in size, using standard semiconductor manufacturing processes. Already they've used these nanochannels to discover that fluid mechanics for passages this small are significantly different not only from bulk-sized channels, but even from channels that are merely 10 nanometers in size.

"We were able to study ion transport in our 2-nm nanochannels by measuring the time and concentration dependence of the ionic conductance," says Arun Majumdar, Director of DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy (ARPA-E), who led this research while still a scientist at Berkeley Lab. "We observed a much higher rate of proton and ionic mobility in our confined hydrated channels up to a fourfold increase over that in larger nanochannels (10-to-100 nm). This enhanced proton transport could explain the high throughput of protons in transmembrane channels."

Majumdar is the co-author with Chuanhua Duan, a member of Majumdar's research group at the University of California (UC) Berkeley, of a paper on this work, which was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnlogy. The paper is titled "Anomalous ion transport in 2-nm hydrophilic nanochannels."

In their paper, Majumdar and Duan describe a technique in which high-precision ion etching is combined with anodic bonding to fabricate channels of a
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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