2019 journal article
Direct observation of confinement-induced diffusophoresis
Nanofluidic devices have channel dimensions which come to within one order of magnitude of the Debye length of common aqueous solutions. Conventionally, external driving is used to create concentration polarization of ions and biomolecules in nanofluidic devices. Here we show that long-range ionic strength gradients intrinsic to all nanofluidic devices, even at equilibrium, also drive a drift of macromolecules. To demonstrate the effect, we confine long DNA to straight nanochannels of constant, rectangular cross-section (100 × 100 nm2) which are connected to large microfluidic reservoirs. The motion of DNA is observed in absence of any driving. We find that at low ionic strengths, molecules in nanochannels migrate toward the nano-micro interface, while they are undergoing purely diffusive motion in high salt. Using numerical models, we demonstrate that the motion is consistent with the ionic strength gradient at the micro-nano interface even at equilibrium, and that the dominant cause of the drift is diffusophoresis.