Chapter 7: Silicon Nitride Thin Films for Nanofluidic Device Fabrication
Published:11 Nov 2016
J. R. Dwyer, Y. M. N. D. Y. Bandara, J. C. Whelan, B. I. Karawdeniya, and J. W. Nichols, in Nanofluidics, ed. J. Edel, A. Ivanov, and M. Kim, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2nd edn, 2016, vol. 2, ch. 7, pp. 190-236.
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Silicon nitride is a ubiquitous and well-established nanofabrication material with a host of favourable properties for creating nanofluidic devices with a range of compelling designs that offer extraordinary discovery potential. Nanochannels formed between two thin silicon nitride windows can open up vistas for exploration by freeing transmission electron microscopy to interrogate static structures and structural dynamics in liquid-based samples. Nanopores present a strikingly different architecture—nanofluidic channels through a silicon nitride membrane—and are one of the most promising tools to emerge in biophysics and bioanalysis, offering outstanding capabilities for single molecule sensing. The constrained environments in such nanofluidic devices make surface chemistry a vital design and performance consideration. Silicon nitride has a rich and complex surface chemistry that, while too often formidable, can be tamed with new, robust surface functionalization approaches. We will explore how a simple structural element—a ∼100 nm-thick silicon nitride window—can be used to fabricate devices to wrest unprecedented insights from the nanoscale world. We will detail the intricacies of native silicon nitride surface chemistry, present surface chemical modification routes that leverage the richness of available surface moieties, and examine the effect of engineered chemical surface functionality on nanofluidic device character and performance.