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J Am Chem Soc. 2012 May 30;134(21):8742-5. doi: 10.1021/ja3016523. Epub 2012 May 17.

Nanoscale molecular traps and dams for ultrafast protein enrichment in high-conductivity buffers.

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Institute of Physics, Academia Sinica, Taipei 11529, Taiwan.


We report a new approach, molecular dam, to enhance mass transport for protein enrichment in nanofluidic channels by nanoscale electrodeless dielectrophoresis under physiological buffer conditions. Dielectric nanoconstrictions down to 30 nm embedded in nanofluidic devices serve as field-focusing lenses capable of magnifying the applied field to 10(5)-fold when combined with a micro- to nanofluidic step interface. With this strong field and the associated field gradient at the nanoconstrictions, proteins are enriched by the molecular damming effect faster than the trapping effect, to >10(5)-fold in 20 s, orders of magnitude faster than most reported methods. Our study opens further possibilities of using nanoscale molecular dams in miniaturized sensing platforms for rapid and sensitive protein analysis and biomarker discovery, with potential applications in precipitation studies and protein crystallization and possible extensions to small-molecules enrichment or screening.

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