The efficient transport of particles through narrow channels is essential to the functioning of a diverse range of systems, from the natural to the industrial. In biology, for example, membrane pores control the movement of specific ions, molecules and macromolecules across cell membranes, whilst viruses transfer DNA to a host cell using a single-file threading process. Alternatively, porous materials play a key role in filtration, the design of batteries and sensing techniques. For sensing applications in particular, huge advances have recently been made in sophisticated, inexpensive and portable DNA sequencing technologies that function by pulling DNA through a narrow pore. While at first sight all of these porous systems differ, at a fundamental level their transport dynamics exhibit universal features that arise from confinement of the translocating species to an effectively one-dimensional (1D) geometry. Yet despite their ubiquity and importance, phenomena associated with confined transport are still poorly understood due to a lack of highly-controlled, quantitative experimental data.
Our main aim is to uncover the principles governing the transport of confined molecules and macromolecules using model systems at the micro and nanoscale.