Water desalination by electrical resonance inside carbon nanotubes

JW Feng and HM Ding and YQ Ma, PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 18, 28290-28296 (2016).

DOI: 10.1039/c6cp04201e

Although previous studies have indicated that the carbon nanotube (CNT) can be used for directed transportation of water and ions, it is still a challenging problem to design a CNT-based device for high performance water desalination. In this study, by using molecular dynamics simulations, we successfully design one type of CNT as a highly efficient desalination membrane through electrical resonance. By decorating the two ends of the CNT with vibrational charges, an alternating electric field is created inside the CNT. When the amplitude of the vibrational charge is 0.05 e, and the vibrational frequency is between 10 THz and 20 THz, the CNT can completely block the transportation of ions. The decrease of the amplitude or the deviation of the frequency in an appropriate range will gradually increase the ion flow. Besides, we also reveal the underlying molecular mechanism of ion blockage, i.e., the electric resonance can disrupt the water structure inside the CNT and then alter the hydration energy of ions inside the CNT. More importantly, we further demonstrate that this mechanism is universal, which is independent of the type of ions and the size of CNT. The present work could be useful for designing water desalination membranes with lower energy consumption and higher fresh water production.

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