Computation-assisted nanopore detection of uranyl ions

G.M Roozbahani, X. Chen, Y. Zhang, X. Guan
Illinois Institute of Technology,
United States

Keywords: nanopore sensing, uranyl ion, peptide, biosensor, chelation


Because of uranium mining, nuclear power production, nuclear weapon development, as well as other industrial and medical application, uranium has been one of the most common radioactive contaminants in the environment, which raises concerns about its environmental impact and risk for human health. For example, uranyl ions can disturb organ function by accumulating in the skeleton, kidneys, lungs, and liver. In addition, environmental samples like soil and groundwater near a uranium processing facility can provide significant signatures about its production activities inside the facility, and to detect such early signatures at declared or undeclared areas is significant for preventing nuclear materials from wrong people. Therefore, developing a new and portable analytical technology for uranium in aqueous media is significant not only for environmental monitoring, but also for non-proliferation. In this work, a label-free method for the detection of uranyl ions is developed by monitoring the translocation of a peptide probe in a nanopore. Based on the difference in the number of peptide events in the absence and presence of uranyl ions, nanomolar concentration of uranyl ions could be detected in minutes. The method is highly selective; micromolar concentrations of Cd(II), Cu(II), Zn(II), Ni(II), Pb(II), Hg(II), Th(IV), Mg(II) and Ca(II) would not interfere with the detection of uranyl ions. In addition, simulated water samples were successfully analyzed.