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Nanopore Fabrication by Controlled Dielectric Breakdown

Figure 2

Nanopore formation by dielectric breakdown.

a) Application of a trans-membrane potential generates an electric field inside the SiNx, and charges the interfaces with opposite ions. b) Leakage current through the membrane follows a trap-assisted tunneling mechanism. Free charges (electrons or holes) can be produced by redox reactions at the surface or by field ionization of incorporated ions. The number of available charged traps (structural defects) sets the magnitude of the observed leakage current. c) Accumulation of charge traps produced by electric field-induced bond breakage or energetic charges carries leads to a highly localized conductive path, and a discrete dielectric breakdown event. d) A nanopore is formed following removal of the defects. e) Leakage current density for SiNx membranes (50-µm× 50-µm). The leakage current is fully reversible and stable, unless high fields are sustained, see Section S2 f) Leakage current at 5 V, on a 10-nm-thick SiNx membrane, in 1 M KCl at pH13.5. Pore created is ∼5-nm (18 nS). The slowly increase leakage current, following the capacitive spike, is a result of the accumulation of traps in the membrane. g) Experiment performed at 15 V, on a 30-nm-thick SiNx membrane, in 1 M KCl pH10. The nanopore is allowed to grow until a pre-determined threshold current is reached, at which point the voltage is turned off. The observed current fluctuations at the onset of pore formation are attributed to significant low-frequency noise at this voltage. Pore created is ∼3-nm (2.9 nS). h) Current-to-voltage curves for 3 nanopores fabricated on different membranes. The legend indicates the (pore diameter)/(membrane thickness) in nm. Measurements performed in 1 M KCl pH8, with an Axopatch 200B.

Figure 2

doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092880.g002