The influence of a solvent on the electronic transport across diamondoid-functionalized biosensing electrodes

MF Dou and FC Maier and M Fyta, NANOSCALE, 11, 14216-14225 (2019).

DOI: 10.1039/c9nr03235e

Electrodes embedded in nanopores have the potential to detect the identity of biomolecules, such as DNA. This identification is typically being done through electronic current measurements across the electrodes in a solvent. In this work, using quantum-mechanical calculations, we qualitatively present the influence of this solvent on the current signals. For this, we model electrodes functionalized with a small diamond-like molecule known as diamondoid and place a DNA nucleotide within the electrode gap. The influence of an aqueous solvent is taken explicitly into account through Quantum-Mechanics/Molecular Mechanics (QM/MM) simulations. From these, we could clearly reveal that at the (111) surface of the Au electrode, water molecules form an adlayer-like structure through hydrogen bond networks. From the temporal evolution of the hydrogen bond between a nucleotide and the functionalizing diamondoid, we could extract information on the conductance across the device. In order to evaluate the influence of the solvent, we compare these results with ground-state electronic structure calculations in combination with the non-equilibrium Green's function (NEGF) approach. These allow access to the electronic transport across the electrodes and show a difference in the detection signals with and without the aqueous solution. We analyze the results with respect to the density of states in the device. In the end, we demonstrate that the presence of water does not hinder the detection of a mutation over a healthy DNA nucleotide. We discuss these results in view of sequencing DNA with nanopores.

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