Single-molecule confinement with uniform electrodynamic nanofluidics

S Ghosh and N Karedla and I Gregor, LAB ON A CHIP, 20, 3249-3257 (2020).

DOI: 10.1039/d0lc00398k

To date, we could not engineer Nature's ability to dynamically handle diffusing single molecules in the liquid-phase as it takes place in pore-forming proteins and tunnelling nanotubes. Consistent handling of individual single molecules in a liquid is of paramount importance to fundamental molecular studies and technological benefits, like single- molecule level separation and sorting for early biomedical diagnostics, microscopic studies of molecular interactions and electron/optical microscopy of molecules and nanomaterials. We can consistently resolve the dynamics of diffusing single molecules if they are confined within a uniform dielectric environment at nanometre length-scales. A uniform dielectric environment is the key characteristic since intrinsic electronic properties of molecules were modified while interacting with any surfaces, and the effect is not the same from one dielectric surface to another. We present dynamic nanofluidic detection of optically active single molecules in a liquid. An all-silica nanofluidic environment was used to electrokinetically handle individual single-molecules where molecular shot noise was resolved. We recorded the single-molecule motion of small fragments of DNA, carbon-nanodots, and organic fluorophores in water. The electrokinetic 1D molecular mass transport under two-focus fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (2fFCS) showed confinement-induced modified molecular interactions (due to various inter-molecular repulsive and attractive forces), which have been theoretically interpreted as molecular shot noise. Our demonstration of high-throughput nanochannel fabrication, 2fFCS-based 1D confined detection of fast-moving single molecules and fundamental understanding of molecular shot noise may open an avenue for single-molecule experiments where physical manipulation of dynamics is necessary.

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