Modeling Electrical Transport through Nucleic Acids
MetadataShow full item record
Nucleic acids play a vital role in many biological systems and activities. In recent years, engineers and scientists have been interested in studying their electrical properties. The motivation for these studies stems from the following facts: (1) the bases, which form the building blocks of nucleic acids, have unique ionization potentials. Further, nucleic acids are one of the few nanomaterials that can be reproducibly manufactured with a high degree of accuracy (though admittedly their placement at desired locations remains a challenge). As a result, designed strands with specific sequences may offer unique device properties; (2) electrical methods offer potential for sequencing nucleic acids based on a single molecule; (3) electrical methods for disease detection based on the current flowing through nucleic acids are beginning to be demonstrated. While experiments in the above mentioned areas is promising, a deeper understanding of the electrical current flow through the nucleic acids needs to be developed. The modeling of current flowing in these molecules is complex because: (1) they are based on atomic scale contacts between nucleic acids and metal, which cannot be reproducibly built; (2) the conductivity of nucleic acids is easily influenced by the environment, which is constantly changing; and (3) the nucleic acids by themselves are floppy. This thesis focuses on the modeling of electrical transport through nucleic acids that are connected to two metal electrodes at nanoscale. We first develop a decoherent transport model for the double-stranded helix based on the Landauer-Buttiker framework. This model is rationalized by comparison with an experiment that measured the conductance of four different DNA strands. The developed model is then used to study the: (1) potential to make barriers and wells for quantum transport using specifically engineered sequences; (2) change in the electrical properties of a specific DNA strand with and without methylation; (3) difference in electrical conduction accompanying the conformational change of DNA between A- and B- forms; (4) role of water in influencing the tight-binding Hamiltonian and orbital distribution in DNA strands; and (5) transport properties of RNA:DNA hybrids. While the results in this thesis demonstrate that experiments can be understood with the developed model, it also reveals that further development of ab initio methods to include the role of environment and vibrations without oversimplifying assumptions can lend further insight.
- Electrical engineering