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Use of nanopores could lead to cleaner water


Not all nanopores are created equal. For starters, their diameters vary between 1 and 10 nanometers (nm). The smallest of these nanopores, called Single Digit Nanopores (SDNs), have diameters of less than 10 nm and only recently have been used in experiments for precision transport measurements.


A team of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists and colleagues from seven other institutions, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have reviewed recent SDN experiments and identified critical gaps in understanding nanoscale hydrodynamics, molecular sieving, fluidic structure and thermodynamics.


The team said a better understanding of transport at the nanoscale can lead to innovative technologies such as new membranes for water purification, new gas-permeable materials and energy storage devices. "If we can fill these gaps, we can discover new mechanisms of molecular and ionic transport at the nanoscale that may apply to a host of new technologies," said LLNL material scientist Tuan Anh Pham, co-author of the article appearing in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. SDNs can be tailored to sieve ions efficiently from seawater and serve as membranes for seawater desalination; differentiate between polar and nonpolar fluids; enhance proton transport in fuel cell applications; and generate electricity from osmotic power harvesting.


"A deeper understanding of water transport through SDNs may allow us to build robust synthetic analogs of transmembrane proteins, such as aquaporins, for water treatment applications," said LLNL material scientist Aleksandr Noy, another co-author of the article.


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