Introduction

We have been investigating membranes with pores of controllable size, geometry, and surface chemistry [1-3]. The pores of these membranes can be modified to create nanometer scale tubes that retain the geometry of the original pores, but impart functionality to the membrane. These nanotube membranes show promise for use in the fields of bioanalysis and biotechnology. Specifically, these membranes and materials prepared therefrom can be used for template synthesis of biofunctionalized materials, chemical and biochemical separations, and as platforms for biochemical sensing. In this chapter, we will review the materials and techniques used to create, manipulate, and interrogate nanotube-based membrane systems. We will review applications of nanotube-based membrane systems to problems that are both basic and applied in nature.

Nanotube membranes are an attractive platform for nanotechnology in large part due to the simple, yet effective, manner in which they can be used. Membrane approaches to nanotechnology offer a facile manner to handle and manipulate nanomaterials without the use of highly specialized equipment. Further, homogenous pores ensure homogenous nanomaterials, a characteristic that is often not easily achieved at these small scales. Appropriate membranes can be purchased commercially, or can be fabricated by the user, and relatively simple techniques can be used to chemically or physically modify the membrane properties.

There are three general membrane-based strategies that have been used to prepare nanomater-ials. These strategies are illustrated in Figure 9.1. In the first strategy, template synthesis, nanometer scale pores are used to synthesize and modify materials in which at least one dimension is nanometer in scale. In the second strategy, nanometer scale pores are used to separate species that translocate a nanotube membrane. In the third approach, nanotube membranes are used as sensors. In this chapter, we will discuss the uses of nanotube-based membranes in the context of biotechnology. We will briefly review the materials and methods of nanotube membrane technology and then discuss biochemically oriented research and applications of these membranes with respect to template synthesis, separations, and sensing.

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