Shuichi Takayama and associates from the University of Michigan are working on constructing nanochannels that are designed to transport and manipulate molecules for biomedical and pharmaceutical applications, in a way that is similar to the one that happens inside cells.
nanoBLOG @ Nanowerk portal reports:
Nanofluidic channels, confining and transporting tiny amounts of fluid, are the pipelines that make the cellular activities of organisms possible. For instance, nanoscale channels carry nutrients into cells and waste from cells. Researchers are trying to mimic Nature by constructing nanochannels in order to be able to manipulate single molecules in, predominantly biomedical, applications. Although nanochannels adjustable in size are prevalent in Nature, it is challenging to fabricate them artificially because of conflicting requirements for rigid structural integrity (to prevent collapse) on one hand and reconfigurability of nanometer-sized features on the other (to allow adjustability). Recent work at the University of Michigan addresses these issues and introduces methods to rapidly prototype structurally stable yet reconfigurable nanochannels. By fabricating tuneable elastomeric nanochannels for nanofluidic manipulation, the researchers were able to properly balance the need for flexibility and rigidity.
“Our method of fabricating nanochannels is very simple” Dr. Shuichi Takayama explains to Nanowerk. “We do it by stretching a piece of surface treated rubber. People may have similar experiences where they have stretched an old rubber band and seen cracks form. We just do this in a finer, more controlled manner to make nanochannels. It does not require any of the typical expensive equipment needed to create nanostructures, such as e-beams or cleanrooms. Our tuneable nanochannels are unique in being able to adjust its cross-sectional size.”