Localized nanopore fabrication in silicon nitride membranes by femtosecond laser exposure and subsequent controlled breakdown.

18 March 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Controlled breakdown (CBD) has emerged as an effective method for fabricating solid-state nanopores in thin suspended dielectric membranes for various biomolecular sensing applications. On an unpatterned membrane, the site of nanopore formation by controlled breakdown is random. Nanopore formation on a specific site on the membrane has previously been realized using local thinning of the membrane by lithographic processes or laser-assisted photothermal etching under immersion in an aqueous salt solution. However, these approaches require elaborate and expensive cleanroom-based lithography processes or involve intricate procedures using custom-made equipment. Here, we present a rapid cleanroom-free approach using single pulse femtosecond laser exposures of 50 nm thick silicon nitride membranes in air to localize the site of nanopore formation by subsequent controlled breakdown to an area less than 500 nm in diameter on the membrane. The precise positioning of the nanopores on the membrane could be produced both using laser exposure powers which caused significant thinning of the silicon nitride membrane (up to 60 % of the original thickness locally), as well as at laser powers which caused no visible modification of the membrane at all. We show that nanopores made using our approach can work as single-molecule sensors by performing dsDNA translocation experiments. Due to the applicability of femtosecond laser processing to a wide range of membrane materials, we expect our approach to simplify the fabrication of localized nanopores by controlled breakdown in a variety of thin film material stacks, thereby enabling more sophisticated nanopore sensors.


solid state nanopore
femtosecond-laser irradiation
laser processing
controlled breakdown
dielectric breakdown
DNA translocation

Supplementary materials

Supplementary Information
Supplementary Information contains: Fluorescent optical visualization of the three nanopores that failed to be localized, BF-TEM images of the membranes around the ablation threshold- 2.7 and 2.8 mW, EFTEM maps at various laser powers, I-V sweeps of nanopores fabricated by Pulsed CBD.


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