Skip to Content
Find More Like This
Return to Search

Method for Preparing Nanoporous Cell-Scaled Reaction Vessels

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Contact ORNL About This Technology


PDF Document Publication11-G00258_ID2381_rev.pdf (575 KB)

Technology Marketing SummaryResearchers at ORNL developed a method to engineer and fabricate nanoscale reaction vessels that mimic biological cells. The picoliter-size reaction vessls have nanoscale pores that allow molecules to enter and exit based on their size, much as molecules do in living cells. This method can eventually be used to contain and create more complex networks. The invention holds great promise for industry and research, where synthetic biologists can match the scale of biological systems and create biologically inspired devices.DescriptionIn this invention, a reaction vessel is made in a microchannel by etching a
substrate. The microchannel has a width of 1000 micrometers (millionths of a
meter) or less and the device has side walls on the order of 2 micrometers. Pores
in the sidewall of the device have a width of 1 to 500 nanometers (billionths of
a meter) and are etched to create an opening between the interior of the vessel
and the microfluidically controlled environment. Nucleic acids and enzymes can
then be located inside the vessel and the pores can be modified to have physical
or chemical properties that selectively restrict passage of these materials into or
out of the vessel. Further, a coating on the pore can be used to control the pore
opening when a signal is applied.
BenefitsBiochemical reactions such as protein synthesis and enzymatic conversion are fundamental to the functioning of living systems and serve as vital tools in industry and research. Nanotechnology-based devices made possible by this invention can be used to produce pharmaceutical products and to better understand molecular systems, self-organization, and enzymatic reactions at the microscale level.

•Cell-mimicking structures can be prepared as isolated cells or arrays of cells
•Opportunities to match the scale of complex biological system components and create biologically inspired devices
•Variety of high-aspect-ratio, nanoporous silicon structures can be integrated into devices within a microfluidic network
Applications and Industries•Fundamental studies of protein-based complex reaction systems
•Assembly and testing of genetic networks
•Analysis of single cells
•Reaction systems and material organization in a fluid environment
•Cell-free protein synthesis and transcription and translation reactions
•Enzymatic reactions at the microscale
•Responsive sensors and therapeutic platforms for developing biological materials
•Probing and manipulating biological systems to perform new functions
More InformationScott T. Retterer and Mitchel John Doktycz, Method for Preparing Small Volume Reaction Containers, U.S. Patent Application 13/050,478, filed March 17, 2011.6.Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 9,630,178
Method for preparing small volume reaction containers
Engineered reaction containers that can be physically and chemically defined to control the flux of molecules of different sizes and charge are disclosed. Methods for constructing small volume reaction containers through a combination of etching and deposition are also disclosed. The methods allow for the fabrication of multiple devices that possess features on multiple length scales, specifically small volume containers with controlled porosity on the nanoscale.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory 04/25/2017
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
UT-B ID 201002381PrototypeAvailable11/21/201110/27/2011

Contact ORNL About This Technology

To: Nestor Fronco<>