Understanding electrical conduction and nanopore formation during controlled breakdown

Fried, Jasper P. and Swett, Jacob L. and Paulose Nadappuram, Binoy and Fedosyuk, Aleksandra and Sousa, Pedro Miguel and Briggs, Dayrl P. and Ivanov, Aleksandar P. and Edel, Joshua B. and Mol, Jan A. and Yates, James R. (2021) Understanding electrical conduction and nanopore formation during controlled breakdown. Small, 17 (37). 2102543. ISSN 1613-6810 (https://doi.org/10.1002/smll.202102543)

[thumbnail of Fried-etal-Small-2021-Understanding-electrical-conduction-and-nanopore-formation]
Text. Filename: Fried_etal_Small_2021_Understanding_electrical_conduction_and_nanopore_formation.pdf
Final Published Version
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 logo

Download (1MB)| Preview


Controlled breakdown has recently emerged as a highly appealing technique to fabricate solid-state nanopores for a wide range of biosensing applications. This technique relies on applying an electric field of approximately 0.4–1 V nm−1 across the membrane to induce a current, and eventually, breakdown of the dielectric. Although previous studies have performed controlled breakdown under a range of different conditions, the mechanism of conduction and breakdown has not been fully explored. Here, electrical conduction and nanopore formation in SiNx membranes during controlled breakdown is studied. It is demonstrated that for Si-rich SiNx, oxidation reactions that occur at the membrane-electrolyte interface limit conduction across the dielectric. However, for stoichiometric Si3N4 the effect of oxidation reactions becomes relatively small and conduction is predominately limited by charge transport across the dielectric. Several important implications resulting from understanding this process are provided which will aid in further developing controlled breakdown in the coming years, particularly for extending this technique to integrate nanopores with on-chip nanostructures.