Rabinowitz, Jake, Elizabeth Whittier, Zheng Liu, Krishna Jayant, Joachim Frank, Kenneth Shepard. “Nanobubble-controlled nanofluidic transport.” Science Advances 6, no. 46 (2020).
Nanofluidic platforms offering tunable material transport are applicable in biosensing, chemical detection, and filtration. Prior studies have achieved selective and controllable ion transport through electrical, optical, or chemical gating of complex nanostructures. Here, we mechanically control nanofluidic transport using nanobubbles. When plugging nanochannels, nanobubbles rectify and occasionally enhance ionic currents in a geometry-dependent manner. These conductance effects arise from nanobubbles inducing surface-governed ion transport through interfacial electrolyte films residing between nanobubble surfaces and nanopipette walls. The nanobubbles investigated here are mechanically generated, made metastable by surface pinning, and verified with cryogenic transmission electron microscopy. Our findings are relevant to nanofluidic device engineering, three-phase interface properties, and nanopipette-based applications.