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Keywords:

  • nanofluidics;
  • ion transport;
  • rectification;
  • porous alumina;
  • protonation/deprotonation

Abstract

A new ionic current rectification device responsive to a broad range of pH stimuli is established using highly ordered nanochannels of porous anodic alumina membrane with abrupt surface charge discontinuity. The asymmetric surface charge distribution is achieved by patterning the nanochannels with surface amine functional groups at designed positions using a two-step anodization process. Due to the protonation/deprotonation of the patterned amine and the remaining intrinsic hydroxyl groups upon solution pH variation, the nanochannel-array-based device is able to regulate ion transport selectivity and has ionic current rectification properties. The rectification ratio of the device is mainly determined by the nanochannel size, and the rectification ratio is less sensitive to the patterned length of the amine groups when the nanochannels size is defined. Thus, the isoelectric point of nanochannels can be easily estimated to be the pH value with a unit rectification ratio. The present ionic device is promising for biosensing, molecular transport and separation, and drug delivery in confined environments.