We report on the fabrication and characterization of a DNA nanopore detector with integrated tunneling electrodes. Functional tunneling devices were identified by tunneling spectroscopy in different solvents and then used in proof-of-principle experiments demonstrating, for the first time, concurrent tunneling detection and ionic current detection of DNA molecules in a nanopore platform. This is an important step toward ultrafast DNA sequencing by tunneling.
Compared with current technology, this device could lead to much cheaper sequencing: just a few dollars, compared with $1m to sequence an entire genome in 2007. We haven’t tried it on a whole genome yet but our initial experiments suggest that you could theoretically do a complete scan of the 3,165 million bases in the human genome within minutes, providing huge benefits for medical tests, or DNA profiles for police and security work. It should be significantly faster and more reliable, and would be easy to scale up to create a device with the capacity to read up to 10 million bases per second, versus the typical 10 bases per second you get with the present day single molecule real-time techniques
In the new study, the researchers demonstrated that it is possible to propel a DNA strand at high speed through a tiny 50 nanometre (nm) hole – or nanopore – cut in a silicon chip, using an electrical charge. As the strand emerges from the back of the chip, its coding sequence (bases A, C, T or G) is read by a ‘tunnelling electrode junction’. This 2 nm gap between two wires supports an electrical current that interacts with the distinct electrical signal from each base code. A powerful computer can then interpret the base code’s signal to construct the genome sequence, making it possible to combine all these well-documented techniques for the first time.