Computational investigations of biopolymer translocation through nanopore devices
Edmonds, Christopher Michael
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Nanopores (1 – 10 nm diameter) constructed in solid-state membranes, have shown promise as next-generation biopolymer analysis devices offering both high resolution and high throughput. One promising application of nanopores is in the analysis of nucleic acids, such as DNA. This involves translocation experiments in which DNA is placed in an ionic solution and is forced through a nanopore with the aid of an applied electric field. The modulation of ionic current through the pore during DNA translocation can then be correlated to various properties of the biopolymer such as the length. To optimally design and operate nanopore devices, it would be advantageous to develop an accurate computer simulation methodology to predict the physics of the translocation process. Hence, I have developed a physically accurate, computationally efficient simulation methodology to predict and analyze the physics of biopolymer translocation through solid-state (silicon nitride) nanopores. The overall theme of this thesis is to use this simulation methodology to thoroughly investigate important issues in the physics underlying translocation experiments and thereby determine the effects of key structural and operation parameters, such as nanopore dimensions, applied voltage, hydrodynamic interactions, solvent viscosity, and the polymer chain length. The results from these simulation studies can assist in not only proper nanopore design, but also help determine the proper experimental environments and parameters for nanopore operation.