Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


University of Ottawa tool to democratize nanopore research


A nanopore is a tiny hole in a thin membrane with a diameter of around a billionth of a meter, or about the width of a single DNA molecule. The potential applications of these nanopores are so diverse - from medicine to information technology (IT) - that they could have a major impact on our daily lives. Now a team of researchers at the University of Ottawa is democratizing entry into the field of nanopore research by offering up a unique tool to accelerate the development of new applications and discoveries.

The innovative T.-Cossa Lab, which studies applied single-molecule biophysics, came up with the idea to provide the research community with the protocols, hardware designs, and software required to fabricate solid-state nanopores in a fast, low cost, and completely automated fashion. This method is now available in the online journal Nature Protocols.

Controlled breakdown (CBD) pore fabrication.

Credit: T.-Cossa Lab, Department of Physics, University of Ottawa

The move is a boon for researchers developing diagnostic and sequencing applications in health, life sciences, and IT, where being able to detect and identify single biological molecules like proteins or DNA with the exacting precision of a nanopore is needed.

"For the first time, we are making our unique nanopore fabrication tool freely available," explained Vincent Tabard-Cossa, professor in the Department of Physics and Director of the Laboratory for Applied Single-Molecule Biophysics at the University of Ottawa. "We opted to offer our patented nanopore fabrication technology to the research community for free, to help disseminate it and expand the field of nanopore research."

Solid-state nanopores are now well established as single-biomolecule sensors which hold enormous promise for fast and low-cost sensing and sequencing applications, including rapid identification of pathogens, biomarker quantification for precision medicine, metagenomics, microbiome analysis, and cancer research.

However, until recently, this promise had been stifled by the expensive, labor intensive, and low-yield methods by which pores were fabricated. To address this problem, Professor Tabard-Cossa and his team pioneered a cheap and scalable solid-state nanopore fabrication method in 2012 called controlled breakdown (CBD), which has since become the method of choice by which solid-state nanopores are fabricated by research groups around the world.

"To foster accessible innovation, we set out to make an instrument and workflow that could be operated successfully by someone who had never even heard of a nanopore," said Matthew Waugh, lab manager of the T.-Cossa Lab. "We've already had some amazing successes through a local scientific outreach program where high school students have been able to independently produce nanopores and detect individual DNA molecules in a single afternoon using our tools."

CBD pore fabrication replaces expensive, manually operated electron microscopes with low cost, easy-to-use, small benchtop instruments that automatically fabricate nanopores to a given size at the click of a button. According to Dr. Tabard-Cossa, researchers can now focus their attention on developing different real-world nanopore applications in various fields.

"One such application tackles the growing need to store and archive huge amounts of digital information for very long timescales," said Kyle Briggs, postdoctoral fellow in the T.-Cossa lab. "Nature solved this problem a long time ago with DNA, and a similar approach will work for us, in which the information is stored as the sequence of a synthetic polymer, reducing server farms down to the size of a fridge and saving billions of dollars in energy costs and fried hard drives. Solid-state nanopores could enable the next major breakthrough in data storage since they can be used as the element that reads the information off the polymers," he added.



The paper Waugh, M., Briggs, K., Gunn, D. et al. Solid-state nanopore fabrication by automated controlled breakdown. Nat Protoc 15, 122-143 (2020) doi:10.1038/s41596-019-0255-2 was published in the January issue of Nature Protocols.

For media inquiries:

Justine Boutet
Media Relations Officer
Cell: 613.762.2908 

Justine Boutet | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Galactic gamma-ray sources reveal birthplaces of high-energy particles
15.01.2020 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

nachricht Colloidal quantum dot laser diodes are just around the corner
15.01.2020 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: World Premiere in Zurich: Machine keeps human livers alive for one week outside of the body

Researchers from the University Hospital Zurich, ETH Zurich, Wyss Zurich and the University of Zurich have developed a machine that repairs injured human livers and keep them alive outside the body for one week. This breakthrough may increase the number of available organs for transplantation saving many lives of patients with severe liver diseases or cancer.

Until now, livers could be stored safely outside the body for only a few hours. With the novel perfusion technology, livers - and even injured livers - can now...

Im Focus: SuperTIGER on its second prowl -- 130,000 feet above Antarctica

A balloon-borne scientific instrument designed to study the origin of cosmic rays is taking its second turn high above the continent of Antarctica three and a half weeks after its launch.

SuperTIGER (Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder) is designed to measure the rare, heavy elements in cosmic rays that hold clues about their origins...

Im Focus: LZH’s MOMA laser ready for the flight to Mars

One last time on Earth it has been turned on in France in December 2019. The next time the MOMA laser developed by the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) is going into operation will be on Mars. The ExoMars rover into which the laser is integrated has now successfully passed the thermal vacuum tests at Airbus in Toulouse, France.

For 18 days the ExoMars rover Rosalind Franklin was subjected to thermal vacuum tests at Airbus. There, it had to withstand strong changes in temperature and...

Im Focus: Atacama Desert: A newly discovered biocoenosis of lichens, fungi and algae shapes entire landscapes

The Atacama Desert in Chile is the oldest and most arid desert on earth. Organisms living in this area have adapted to the extreme conditions over thousands of years. A research team led by Dr Patrick Jung has now discovered and investigated a previously unknown biocoenosis of lichens, fungi, cyanobacteria and algae. It colonises tiny stones, so-called grit and its need for water is satisfied by fog and dew. These organisms also decompose the rock on and in which they live. The scientists believe that this is how they have shaped the landscape of the Atacama Desert. Their study was published in the renowned scientific journal "Gebiology".

Many desert areas have large black spots in the sand. These spots are mineral deposits, so-called desert varnish. In the Atacama Desert, which can be compared...

Im Focus: Nano antennas for data transfer

For the first time, physicists from the University of Würzburg have successfully converted electrical signals into photons and radiated them in specific directions using a low-footprint optical antenna that is only 800 nanometres in size.

Directional antennas convert electrical signals to radio waves and emit them in a particular direction, allowing increased performance and reduced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

„Advanced Battery Power“- Conference, Contributions are welcome!

07.01.2020 | Event News

International Coral Reef Symposium 2020 Holds Photo Competition

19.12.2019 | Event News

The Future of Work

03.12.2019 | Event News

Latest News

Colloidal quantum dot laser diodes are just around the corner

15.01.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Not so fast: Some batteries can be pushed too far

15.01.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Are sinking soils in the Everglades related to climate change?

15.01.2020 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>