A novel technique that can rapidly separate long-strand polymers according to length is presented. The separation mechanism is mediated by a confinement-induced entropic force at the abrupt interface between regions of vastly different configuration entropy. To demonstrate this technique, DNA molecules were partially inserted into a dense array of nanopillars (an entropically unfavorable region) using a pulsed electric field and allowed to relax to their natural state by removal of the field. Molecules of dissimilar lengths (T2 and T7 coliphage DNA) were inserted into this region in such a way that shorter molecules were fully inserted in this region, while longer molecules remained partially across the interface. The longer T2 molecules were observed to recoil entirely out of the pillar array, leaving the shorter T7 molecules inserted, and effecting separation of the two species in a single step. To show how this method can be used for separation of unknown samples, the inserting electric field was pulsed for progressively longer times, allowing passage of progressively longer molecules and producing the equivalent of a conventional electropherogram. The effects limiting resolution in this device are discussed, and the expected separating power of a multistage device is reported. The extracted resolution and running separation time compare favorably with current conventional separation techniques.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Analytical Chemistry