Here we report on the unprecedentedly high resolution imaging of ion transport through single nanopores by scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM). The quantitative SECM image of single nanopores allows for the determination of their structural properties, including their density, shape, and size, which are essential for understanding the permeability of the entire nanoporous membrane. Nanoscale spatial resolution was achieved by scanning a 17 nm radius pipet tip at a distance as low as 1.3 nm from a highly porous nanocrystalline silicon membrane in order to obtain the peak current response controlled by the nanopore-mediated diffusional transport of tetrabutylammonium ions to the nanopipet-supported liquid-liquid interface. A 280 nm × 500 nm image resolved 13 nanopores, which corresponds to a high density of 93 nanopores/μm 2. A finite element simulation of the SECM image was performed to assess quantitatively the spatial resolution limited by the tip diameter in resolving two adjacent pores and to determine the actual size of a nanopore, which was approximated as an elliptical cylinder with a depth of 30 nm and major and minor axes of 53 and 41 nm, respectively. These structural parameters were consistent with those determined by transmission electron microscopy, thereby confirming the reliability of quantitative SECM imaging at the nanoscale level.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry