'Nanoglassblowing' seen as boon to study of individual molecules
Traditionally, glass micro- and nanofluidic devices are fabricated by etching tiny channels into a glass wafer with the same lithographic procedures used to manufacture circuit patterns on semiconductor computer chips.
The planar (flat-edged) rectangular canals are topped with a glass cover that is annealed (heated until it bonds permanently) into place. About a year ago, the authors of the Nanotechnology paper observed that in some cases, the heat of the annealing furnace caused air trapped in the channel to expand the glass cover into a curved shape, much like glassblowers use heated air to add roundness to their work.
The researchers looked for ways to exploit this phenomenon and learned that they could easily control the amount of “blowing out” that occurred over several orders of magnitude.
As a result, the researchers were able to create devices with “funnels” many micrometers wide and about a micrometer deep that tapered down to nanochannels with depths as shallow as 7 nanometers—approximately 1,000 times smaller in diameter than a red blood cell. The nanoglassblown chambers soon showed distinct advantages over their planar predecessors.
“In the past, for example, it was difficult to get single strands of DNA into a nanofluidic device for study because DNA in solution balls up and tends to bounce off the sharp edges of planar channels with depths smaller than the ball,” says Cornell's Elizabeth Strychalski. “The gradually dwindling size of the funnel-shaped entrance to our channel stretches the DNA out as it flows in with less resistance, making it easier to assess the properties of the DNA,” adds NIST's Samuel Stavis.
Future nanoglassblown devices, the researchers say, could be fabricated to help sort DNA strands of different sizes or as part of a device to identify the base-pair components of single strands. Other potential applications of the technique include the manufacture of optofluidic elements—lenses or waveguides that could change how light is moved around a microchip—and rounded chambers in which single cells could be confined and held for culturing.
Alle Nachrichten aus der Kategorie: Life Sciences
Articles and reports from the Life Sciences area deal with applied and basic research into modern biology, chemistry and human medicine.
Valuable information can be found on a range of life sciences fields including bacteriology, biochemistry, bionics, bioinformatics, biophysics, biotechnology, genetics, geobotany, human biology, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, zoology, bioinorganic chemistry, microchemistry and environmental chemistry.
Grow faster, die sooner: How growth rates influence the fitness of bacteria
“The fitness of bacteria is more complex than expected,” explains Ulrich Gerland, professor for the theory of complex biosystems at the Technical University of…
Spintronics: Researchers show how to make non-magnetic materials magnetic
In solid-state physics, oxide layers only a few nanometres thick are known to form a so-called two-dimensional electron gas. These thin layers, separated from…
Caterpillars of the wax moth love eating plastic: Fraunhofer LBF investigates degradation process
Within the Framework of a research project on the chemical imaging analysis of plastic digestion in caterpillars (RauPE), a team from Fraunhofer LBF used…