University of Illinois team finds that defects in graphene membranes may improve biomolecule transport


Researchers at the University of Illinois examined how tiny defects in graphene membranes, formed during fabrication, could be used to improve molecule transport. They found that the defects make a big difference in how molecules move along a membrane surface. Instead of trying to fix these flaws, the team set out to use them to help direct molecules into the membrane pores.

Nanopore membranes have generated interest in biomedical research because they help researchers investigate individual molecules – atom by atom – by pulling them through pores for physical and chemical characterization. This technology could ultimately lead to devices that can quickly sequence DNA, RNA or proteins.

In 2014, University of Illinois physics professor Aleksei Aksimentiev and graduate student Manish Shankla demonstrated a graphene membrane that controlled a molecule’s movement through a nanopore by means of electrical charge. They discovered that once the molecules are on the surface of the membrane, it is very difficult to get them to shuffle into the membrane’s pores because molecules like to adhere to the surface.

While on sabbatical at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Aksimentiev found that DNA tends to accumulate and stick along the edges of fabrication-formed defects that occur as linear steps spanning across the membrane’s surface. The Illinois team’s goal was to find a way to use these flaws to direct the stuck molecules into the nanopores, as a principle that can also apply to the delivery, sorting and analysis of biomolecules. Read full article here.


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The National Graphene Association is the main organization and body in the U.S. advocating and promoting the commercialization of graphene. NGA is focused on addressing critical issues such as policy and standards development that will result in effective integration of graphene and graphene-based materials globally. NGA brings together current and future graphene stakeholders — entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, developers and suppliers, investors, venture capitalists, and government agencies — to drive innovation, and to promote and facilitate the commercialization of graphene products and technologies. Join NGA here.


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