Rational Design of Two-Dimensional Hydrocarbon Polymer as Ultrathin-Film Nanoporous Membranes for Water Desalination

Q Lyu and SQ Sun and CL Li and SQ Hu and LC Lin, ACS APPLIED MATERIALS & INTERFACES, 10, 18778-18786 (2018).

DOI: 10.1021/acsami.8b04630

Membrane-based water desalination has drawn considerable attention for its potential in addressing the increasingly limited water resources, but progress remains limited due to the inherent constraints of conventional membrane materials. In this work, by employing state-of- the- art molecular simulation techniques, we demonstrated that two- dimensional hydrocarbon polymer membranes, materials that possess intrinsic and tunable nanopores, can provide opportunities as molecular sieves for producing drinkable water from saline sources. Moreover, we identified a unique relationship between the permeation and selectivity for membranes with elliptical pores, which breaks the commonly known trade-off between the pore size and desalination performance. Specifically, increase in the area of elliptical pores with a controlled minor diameter can offer an improved water flux without compromising the ability to reject salts. Water distributions and water dynamics at atomic levels with the potential of mean force profiles for water and ions were also analyzed to understand the dependence of permeation and selectivity on the pore geometry. The outcomes of this work are instrumental to the future development of ultrathin-film reverse osmosis membranes and provide guidelines for the design of membranes with more effective and efficient pore structures.

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