Combined quantum tunnelling and dielectrophoretic trapping for molecular analysis at ultra-low analyte concentrations

Tang, Longhua and Paulose Nadappuram, Binoy and Cadinu, Paolo and Zhao, Zhiyu and Xue, Liang and Yi, Long and Ren, Ren and Wang, Jiangwei and Ivanov, Aleksander P. and Edel, Joshua B. (2021) Combined quantum tunnelling and dielectrophoretic trapping for molecular analysis at ultra-low analyte concentrations. Nature Communications, 12. 913. ISSN 2041-1723 (

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Quantum tunnelling offers a unique opportunity to study nanoscale objects with atomic resolution using electrical readout. However, practical implementation is impeded by the lack of simple, stable probes, that are required for successful operation. Existing platforms offer low throughput and operate in a limited range of analyte concentrations, as there is no active control to transport molecules to the sensor. We report on a standalone tunnelling probe based on double-barrelled capillary nanoelectrodes that do not require a conductive substrate to operate unlike other techniques, such as scanning tunnelling microscopy. These probes can be used to efficiently operate in solution environments and detect single molecules, including mononucleotides, oligonucleotides, and proteins. The probes are simple to fabricate, exhibit remarkable stability, and can be combined with dielectrophoretic trapping, enabling active analyte transport to the tunnelling sensor. The latter allows for up to 5-orders of magnitude increase in event detection rates and sub-femtomolar sensitivity.


Tang, Longhua, Paulose Nadappuram, Binoy ORCID logoORCID:, Cadinu, Paolo, Zhao, Zhiyu, Xue, Liang, Yi, Long, Ren, Ren, Wang, Jiangwei, Ivanov, Aleksander P. and Edel, Joshua B.;