Existing examples of nanopores fall into three categories: synthetic ion channels made by bottom-up synthesis and providing a mimic of the transmembrane pore, solid-state nanopores, usually drilled or etched out of solid pieces of material matrix, and biological nanopores made by isiolating a naturally-occurring protein.


LLNL’s carbon nanotube trans-membrane channels invention is a new class of nanopores that combines the best features of all three existing types of pores while substantially mitigating a number of shortcomings exhibited by each of these types of pores.

The method involves sonication of nanotube in presence of lipids, including but not limited to DOPC or DPhPC. One advantage of this structure is the extended stability at room and/or elevated temperature.


LLNL researchers have demonstrated that short CNT channels provide an excellent mimic of a biological channel, including spontaneous insertion into the lipid membrane and efficient transport of water, ions and small macromolecules, such as DNA, across the bilayer.

Potential Applications
  • Providing a method to produce and synthesize ultra-short nanotube, with length of ~2-15 nm nanometer. This method might also be applicable to produce other short nanotubes beside those made of carbon.
  • Providing a structure that consists of short nanotube incorporated in the membrane of lipid vesicles can be used for the spontaneous or forced incorporation of nanotubes into lipid membrane, such as planar lipid bilayer, liposome vesicles; and also incorporation into cell membrane. This activity mimics the functionality of biological membrane proteins, including enabling the ion and molecule transport from one side of the membrane to another.
  • This CNP structure can be used to deliver therapeutic, imaging, transfection and other agents into human or mammalian cells for various purposes. The agents can be either incorporated inside the vesicles, or conjugated to the carbon nanotubes, or the combination of both;
  • The CNPs can be used as therapeutic or an antimicrobial agents to kill microorganisms and lyse cell membranes;
  • The CNP opening can be modulated by transmembrane voltage, chemical gating, and covalently attached "gatekeeper" moieties;
  • CNPs can be used for biosensing applications taking advantage of exceptional chemical and biological stability of CNPs. It can also be integrated into bioelectronics devices or lab-on-a-chip architectures.
  • CNP can be used as a synthetic nanopore for direct readout single-chain sequencing of DNA and other polymer chains.
Development Status

LLNL has an extensive patent portfolio covering its CNP & CNT technology research and development.

US 8,940,173

Membranes with functionalized carbon nanotube pores for selective transport

US 7,544,978 and 7,745,856

Lipid nanotube or nanowire sensor

US 7,569,850

Lipid bilayers on nano-templates

US 62/060494 (unpublished) Carbon nanotube trans-membrane channels mimicking biological porins

LLNL’s CNP & CNT research has also been published in several journals:

Nanofluidic Transport through Isolated Carbon Nanotube Channels: Advances, Controversies, and Challenges Stochastic transport through carbon nanotubes in lipid bilayers and live cell membranes Osmotically-Driven Transport in Carbon Nanotube Porins
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