Thermal-driven flow inside graphene channels for water desalination

B Chen and HF Jiang and HD Liu and K Liu and X Liu and XJ Hu, 2D MATERIALS, 6, UNSP 035018 (2019).

DOI: 10.1088/2053-1583/ab15ac

A novel concept of membrane process in a thermal-driven system is proposed for water desalination. By means of molecular dynamics simulations, we show fast water transport through graphene galleries at a temperature gradient. Water molecules are driven to migrate through nanometer-wide graphene channels from cold reservoir to hot reservoir by the effect of thermal creep flow. Reducing the interlayer spacing to 6.5 angstrom, an abrupt escalation occurs in water permeation between angstrom-distance-graphene slabs. A change from disordered bulklike water to quasi-square structure has been found under this extremely confined condition. This leads to a transition to subcontinuum transport. Water molecules perform collective diffusion behaviors inside graphene channels. The special transport processes with structure change convert thermal energy into motion without dissipation, resulting in unexpectedly high water permeability. The thermal-driven system reaches maximum flowrate at temperature variance of 80 K, corresponding to the quantity at pressure difference up to 10(5) bar in commercial reverse osmosis processes and 230 bar in pressure-driven slip flow. Our results also reveal the movement of saline ions influenced by thermophoretic effect, which complements the geometry limitation at greater layer spacing, enhancing the blockage of ions. This finding aims to provide an innovational idea of developing a high-efficiency desalination technology able to utilize various forms of energy.

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