Combined quantum tunnelling and dielectrophoretic trapping for molecular analysis at ultra-low analyte concentrations

Longhua Tang, Binoy Paulose Nadappuram, Paolo Cadinu, Zhiyu Zhao, Liang Xue, Long Yi, Ren Ren, Jiangwei Wang, Aleksander P. Ivanov, Joshua B. Edel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Quantum tunnelling offers a unique opportunity to study nanoscale objects with atomic resolution using electrical readout. However, practical implementation is impeded by the lack of simple, stable probes, that are required for successful operation. Existing platforms offer low throughput and operate in a limited range of analyte concentrations, as there is no active control to transport molecules to the sensor. We report on a standalone tunnelling probe based on double-barrelled capillary nanoelectrodes that do not require a conductive substrate to operate unlike other techniques, such as scanning tunnelling microscopy. These probes can be used to efficiently operate in solution environments and detect single molecules, including mononucleotides, oligonucleotides, and proteins. The probes are simple to fabricate, exhibit remarkable stability, and can be combined with dielectrophoretic trapping, enabling active analyte transport to the tunnelling sensor. The latter allows for up to 5-orders of magnitude increase in event detection rates and sub-femtomolar sensitivity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number913
Number of pages8
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2021


  • quantum tunnelling
  • nanoscale objects
  • atomic resolution
  • electrical readout
  • probes
  • practical implementation
  • standalone tunnelling probe
  • detection rates
  • sub-femtomolar sensitivity


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