Ultimate Osmosis Engineered by the Pore Geometry and Functionalization of Carbon Nanostructures

ZG Song and ZP Xu, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 5, 10597 (2015).

DOI: 10.1038/srep10597

Osmosis is the key process in establishing versatile functions of cellular systems and enabling cleanwater harvesting technologies. Membranes with single-atom thickness not only hold great promises in approaching the ultimate limit of these functions, but also offer an ideal test-bed to explore the underlying physical mechanisms. In this work, we explore diffusive and osmotic transport of water and ions through carbon nanotube and porous graphene based membranes by performing molecular dynamics simulations. Our comparative study shows that the cylindrical confinement in carbon nanotubes offers much higher salt rejection at similar permeability in osmosis compared to porous graphene. Moreover, chemical functionalization of the pores modulates the membrane performance by its steric and electrostatic nature, especially at small-size pores due to the fact that the optimal transport is achieved by ordered water transport near pore edges. These findings lay the ground for the ultimate design of forward osmosis membranes with optimized performance trade-off, given the capability of nano-engineering nanostructures by their geometry and chemistry.

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