Solid-state nanopore-based analysis of nucleic acid polymers is revolutionary. No other technique can determine information content in single molecules of genetic material at speeds of 1 subunit per microsecond. Since individual molecules are counted, the output is intrinsically quantitative. The nanopore approach is more generalized than any other method and may be used to analyze any polymer molecule, applying nanofabrication, nanoelectronic components, and high-speed signal acquisition. Geometry of the solid-state nanopore (less than 5 nm in length and 5 nm in diameter) will enable 1-5 nucleotide resolution measurements. This means that maximum resolution will be improved by 100-fold compared to biological ion-channel measurements. The solid-state nanopore sensor will permit sequencing DNA at a much faster rate, along with analyzing electronic properties of individual subunits of DNA or RNA, to obtain linear composition of each genetic polymer molecule.

Experimentation resulted in a solid-state nanopore made using nanofabrication techniques. The nanopore channel with a diameter and length of less than 5 nm is made in a siliconbased chip that has nanoelectrodes placed adjacent to the pore. High-speed electronic equipment with exceptional signal-acquisition capabilities is used to analyze electronic properties of individual subunits of DNA or RNA to obtain a linear composition of each genetic polymer molecule. The nanopore sensor is expected to have unmatched speed and sensitivity for DNA detection and sequencing, enabling personalized molecular medicine, revolutionary modification of the agriculture and food industry, and decoding of ecosystem-wide genetic variation. The payoffs of such a nanopore sensor are twofold. First, the complete DNA sequence information underlying the biodiversity of planet Earth will be within reach, thus enabling a complete understanding of the molecular basis of life. Second, such a robust sensor would enable the detection of life on other planets by sensing any information-encoding biopolymers. It would also enable real-time, molecular astronaut health monitoring, and pathogen and environment monitoring systems.

This technology can be used in medical and scientific applications, devices based on nanopores, pathogen and environment monitoring systems, DNA or RNA detection and sequencing, the agriculture and food industries, and space research.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact the Technology Partnerships Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link for more information: .

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2016 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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