Water-Compression Gating of Nanopore Transport

James Wilson, Aleksei Aksimentiev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electric field-driven motion of biomolecules is a process essential to many analytics methods, in particular, to nanopore sensing, where a transient reduction of nanopore ionic current indicates the passage of a biomolecule through the nanopore. However, before any molecule can be examined by a nanopore, the molecule must first enter the nanopore from the solution. Previously, the rate of capture by a nanopore was found to increase with the strength of the applied electric field. Here, we theoretically show that, in the case of narrow pores in graphene membranes, increasing the strength of the electric field can not only decrease the rate of capture, but also repel biomolecules from the nanopore. As the strong electric field polarizes water near and within the nanopore, the high gradient of the field also produces a strong dielectrophoretic force that compresses the water. The pressure difference caused by the sharp water density gradient produces a hydrostatic force that repels DNA or proteins from the nanopore, preventing, in certain conditions, their capture. We show that such local compression of fluid can regulate the transport of biomolecules through nanoscale passages in the absence of physical gates and sort proteins according to their phosphorylated states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number268101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 26 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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