Nanopores bear great potential as single-molecule tools for bioanalytical sensing and sequencing, due to their exceptional sensing capabilities, high-throughput, and low cost. The detection principle relies on detecting small differences in the ionic current as biomolecules traverse the nanopore. A major bottleneck for the further progress of this technology is the noise that is present in the ionic current recordings, because it limits the signal-to-noise ratio and thereby the effective time resolution of the experiment. Here, we review the main types of noise at low and high frequencies and discuss the underlying physics. Moreover, we compare biological and solid-state nanopores in terms of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), the important figure of merit, by measuring free translocations of a short ssDNA through a selected set of nanopores under typical experimental conditions. We find that SiNx solid-state nanopores provide the highest SNR, due to the large currents at which they can be operated and the relatively low noise at high frequencies. However, the real game-changer for many applications is a controlled slowdown of the translocation speed, which for MspA was shown to increase the SNR >160-fold. Finally, we discuss practical approaches for lowering the noise for optimal experimental performance and further development of the nanopore technology.
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