Modeling Transport Through Synthetic Nanopores

IEEE Nanotechnol Mag. 2009 Mar;3(1):20-28. doi: 10.1109/MNANO.2008.931112.


Nanopores in thin synthetic membranes have emerged as convenient tools for high-throughput single-molecule manipulation and analysis. Because of their small sizes and their ability to selectively transport solutes through otherwise impermeable membranes, nanopores have numerous potential applications in nanobiotechnology. For most applications, properties of the nanopore systems have to be characterize at the atomic level, which is currently beyond the limit of experimental methods. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations can provide the desired information, however several technical challenges have to be met before this method can be applied to synthetic nanopore systems. Here, we highlight our recent work on modeling synthetic nanopores of the most common types. First, we describe a novel graphical tool for setting up all-atom systems incorporating inorganic materials and biomolecules. Next, we illustrate the application of the MD method for silica, silicon nitride, and polyethylene terephthalate nanopores. Following that, we describe a method for modeling synthetic surfaces using a bias potential. Future directions for tool development and nanopore modeling are briefly discussed at the end of this article.