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Electric field-induced direct delivery of proteins by a nanofountain probe

Loh, Owen Y., Ho, Andrea M., Rim, Jee E., Kohli, Punit, Patankar, Neelesh A., Espinosa, Horacio D.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2008 v.105 no.43 pp. 16438-16443
atomic force microscopy, electric field, models, transport proteins
We report nanofabrication of protein dot and line patterns using a nanofountain atomic force microscopy probe (NFP). Biomolecules are continuously fed in solution through an integrated microfluidic system, and deposited directly onto a substrate. Deposition is controlled by application of an electric potential of appropriate sign and magnitude between the probe reservoir and substrate. Submicron dot and line molecular patterns were generated with resolution that depended on the magnitude of the applied voltage, dwell time, and writing speed. By using an energetic argument and a Kelvin condensation model, the quasi-equilibrium liquid-air interface at the probe tip was determined. The analysis revealed the origin of the need for electric fields in achieving protein transport to the substrate and confirmed experimental observations suggesting that pattern resolution is controlled by tip sharpness and not overall probe aperture. As such, the NFP combines the high-resolution of dip-pen nanolithography with the efficient continuous liquid feeding of micropipettes while allowing scalability to 1- and 2D probe arrays for high throughput.