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Ultrathin, High-Lifetime Silicon Nitride Membranes for Nanopore Sensing

Analytical Chemistry


Shankar Dutt, Buddini I Karawdeniya, YM Nuwan DY Bandara, Nahid Afrin, Patrick Kluth

Thin membranes are highly sought-after for nanopore-based single-molecule sensing, and fabrication of such membranes becomes challenging in the ≲10 nm thickness regime where a plethora of useful molecule information can be acquired by nanopore sensing. In this work, we present a scalable and controllable method to fabricate silicon nitride (SixNy) membranes with effective thickness down to ∼1.5 nm using standard silicon processing and chemical etching using hydrofluoric acid (HF). Nanopores were fabricated using the controlled breakdown method with estimated pore diameters down to ∼1.8 nm yielding events >500,000 and >1,800,000 from dsDNA and bovine serum albumin (BSA) protein, respectively, demonstrating the high-performance and extended lifetime of the pores fabricated through our membranes. We used two different compositions of SixNy for membrane fabrication (near-stoichiometric and silicon-rich SixNy) and compared them against commercial membranes. The final thicknesses of the membranes were measured using ellipsometry and were in good agreement with the values calculated from the bulk etch rates and DNA translocation characteristics. The stoichiometry and the density of the membrane layers were characterized with Rutherford backscattering spectrometry while the nanopores were characterized using pH-conductance, conductivity-conductance, and power spectral density (PSD) graphs.


SAXS data modelling for the characterisation of ion tracks in polymers

Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics


Xue Wang, Shankar Dutt, Christian Notthoff, Alexander Kiy, Pablo Mota-Santiago, Stephen T. Mudie, Maria E. Toimil-Molares, Feng Liu, Yugang Wang and Patrick Kluth

Here, we present new models to fit small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) data for the characterization of ion tracks in polymers. Ion tracks in polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polycarbonate (PC), polyimide (PI) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) were created by swift heavy ion irradiation using 197Au and 238U with energies between 185 MeV and 2.0 GeV. Transmission SAXS measurements were performed at the Australian Synchrotron. SAXS data were analysed using two new models that describe the tracks by a cylindrical structure composed of a highly damaged core with a gradual transition to the undamaged material. First, we investigate the ‘Soft Cylinder Model’, which assumes a smooth function to describe the transition region by a gradual change in density from a core to a matrix. As a simplified and computational less expensive version of the ‘Soft Cylinder Model’, the ‘Core Transition Model’ was developed to enable fast fitting. This model assumes a linear increase in density from the core to the matrix. Both models yield superior fits to the experimental SAXS data compared with the often-used simple ‘Hard Cylinder Model’ assuming a constant density with an abrupt transition.


Shape of nanopores in track-etched polycarbonate membranes

Journal of Membrane Science


Shankar Dutt, Pavel Apel, Nikolay Lizunov, Christian Notthoff, Qi Wen, Christina Trautmann, Pablo Mota-Santiago, Nigel Kirby, Patrick Kluth

High aspect-ratio nanopores of nearly cylindrical geometry were fabricated by irradiation of 20 μm thick polycarbonate (PC) foils with Pb ions followed by UV sensitization and etching in 5 M NaOH at 60 °C. Synchrotron-based small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) was used to study the morphology and size variation of the nanopores as a function of the etching time and ion fluence. The shape of the nanopores was found to be consistent with cylindrical pores with ends tapering off towards the two polymer surfaces in the last ~1.6 μm. The tapered structure of the nanopores in track-etched PC membranes was first observed more than 40 years ago followed by many other studies suggesting that the shape of nanopores in PC membranes deviates from a perfect cylinder and nanopores narrow towards both membrane surfaces. It was also reported that the transport properties of the nanopore membranes are influenced by the tapered structure. However, quantification of the shape of nanopores has remained elusive due to inherent difficulties in imaging the pores using microscopy techniques. The present manuscript reports on the quantitative measurement of the tapered structure of nanopores using SAXS. Determination of this structure was enabled by obtaining high quality SAXS data and the development of appropriate fitting models. The etch rates for both the radius at the polymer surface and the radius of the pore in bulk were calculated. Both etch rates decrease slightly with increasing fluence. This behavior is ascribed to the overlap of track halos which are characterized by cross-linking of the polymer chains. The halo radius was estimated to be approximately 120 nm. The influence of the observed nanopore shape on the pore transport properties was estimated and found to have a significant influence on the water flow rates compared to cylindrical pores. The results enable a better understanding of track-etched membranes and facilitate improved pore design for many applications.


Ion track etching of polycarbonate membranes monitored by in situ small angle X-ray scattering

Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics


Alexander Kiy, Christian Notthoff, Shankar Dutt, Mark Grigg, Andrea Hadley, Pablo Mota-Santiago, Nigel Kirby, Christina Trautmann, Maria E. Toimil-Molares and Patrick Kluth

In situ small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) measurements of ion track etching in polycarbonate foils are used to directly monitor the selective dissolution of ion tracks with high precision, including the early stages of etching. Detailed information about the track etching kinetics and size, shape, and size distribution of an ensemble of nanopores is obtained. Time resolved measurements as a function of temperature and etchant concentration show that the pore radius increases almost linearly with time for all conditions and the etching process can be described by an Arrhenius law. The radial etching shows a power law dependency on the etchant concentration. An increase in the etch rate with increasing temperature or concentration of the etchant reduces the penetration of the etchant into the polymer but does not affect the pore size distribution. The in situ measurements provide an estimate for the track etch rate, which is found to be approximately three orders of magnitude higher than the radial etch rate. The measurement methodology enables new experiments studying membrane fabrication and performance in liquid environments.


van der Waals coefficients of the multi-layered MoS2 with alkali metals

Physica Scripta


Shankar Dutt, Sukhjit Singh, Aman Mahajan, Bindiya Arora and B K Sahoo

The van der Waals coefficients and the separation dependent retardation functions of the interactions between the atomically thin films of the multi-layered transition metal molybdenum disulfide (MoS 2) dichalcogenides with the alkali atoms are investigated. First, we determine the frequency-dependent dielectric permittivity and intrinsic carrier density values for different layers of MoS 2 by adopting various fitting models to the recently measured optical data reported by Yu and co-workers (2015 Sci. Rep. 5, 16 996) using spectroscopy ellipsometry. Then, dynamic electric dipole polarizabilities of the alkali atoms are evaluated very accurately by employing the relativistic coupled-cluster theory. We also demonstrate the explicit change in the above coefficients for different number of layers. These studies are highly useful for the optoelectronics, sensing and storage applications using layered MoS 2.


Analysis of nanometer-sized aligned conical pores using small-angle x-ray scattering

Physical Review Materials


Andrea Hadley, Christina Notthoff, Pablo Mota-Santiago, Shankar Dutt, Stephan Mudie, M. A. Carrillo-Solano, M. E. Toimil-Molares, Christina Trautmann, and Patrick Kluth

Small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) was used to quantitatively study the morphology of aligned, monodis- perse conical etched ion tracks in thin films of amorphous SiO2 with aspect ratios of around 6 : 1 and in polycarbonate foils with aspect ratios of around 1000 : 1. This paper presents the measurement procedure and methods developed for the analysis of the scattering images and shows results obtained for the two material systems. To enable accurate parameter extraction from the data collected from conical scattering objects, a model fitting the two-dimensional (2D) detector images was developed. The analysis involved fitting images from a sequence of measurements with different sample tilts to minimize errors, which may have been introduced due to the experimental setup. The model was validated by the exploitation of the geometric relationship between the sample tilt angle and the cone opening angle, to an angle observed in the features of the SAXS images. We also demonstrate that a fitting procedure for 1D data extracted from the scattering images using a hard cylinder model can also be used to extract the cone size. The application of these techniques enables us to reconstruct the cone morphologies with unprecedented precision.


Structural and electrical characterization of semiconducting xCuO-(100-x) TeO2 glasses

Journal of Non-Crystalline Solids


Navjot Kaur, Atul Khanna, Margit Fábián, Shankar Dutt

Structural, thermal and electrical properties of semiconducting copper tellurite glasses: xCuO-(100-x)TeO2 (x = 30, 40 and 50 mol%) were studied by neutron diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, thermal analysis and two probe electrical conductivity measurements. Reverse Monte Carlo simulations of the neutron structure factors found that Tesingle bondO and Cusingle bondO bonds have equal lengths of 1.94 Å and that both Te and Cu ions exist in structural units of similar size and geometry. The average Cu-O co-ordination decreases from 3.72 to 3.68, while the Te-O co-ordination decreases from 3.48 to 3.34 on increasing the CuO concentration from 30 to 50 mol%. The electrical conductivity increases from 2.96 × 10−9 Ω−1 m−1 to 1.25 × 10−7 Ω−1 m−1 with an increase in CuO concentration from 30 to 50 mol%. The increase in CuO mol% increases the Cusingle bondCu coordination number from 0.68 to 1.26 and promotes electronic hopping between the adjacent Cu sites


High-charge relativistic electron bunches from a kHz laser-plasma accelerator

Physical Review Accelerators and Beams


D. Gustas, D. Guénot, A. Vernier, S. Dutt, F. Böhle, R. Lopez-Martens, A. Lifschitz, and J. Faure

We report on electron wakefield acceleration in the resonant bubble regime with few-millijoule near-single-cycle laser pulses at a kilohertz repetition rate. Using very tight focusing of the laser pulse in conjunction with microscale supersonic gas jets, we demonstrate a stable relativistic electron source with a high charge per pulse up to 24 pC/shot. The corresponding average current is 24 nA, making this kilohertz electron source useful for various applications.

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