Biological ion channels have remarkable ion selectivity, permeability and rectification properties, but it is challenging to develop artificial analogues. Here, we report a metal–organic framework-based subnanochannel (MOFSNC) with heterogeneous structure and surface chemistry to achieve these properties. The asymmetrically structured MOFSNC can rapidly conduct K+, Na+ and Li+ in the subnanometre-to-nanometre channel direction, with conductivities up to three orders of magnitude higher than those of Ca2+ and Mg2+, equivalent to a mono/divalent ion selectivity of 103. Moreover, by varying the pH from 3 to 8 the ion selectivity can be tuned further by a factor of 102 to 104. Theoretical simulations indicate that ion–carboxyl interactions substantially reduce the energy barrier for monovalent cations to pass through the MOFSNC, and thus lead to ultrahigh ion selectivity. These findings suggest ways to develop ion selective devices for efficient ion separation, energy reservation and power generation.
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This project is supported by the Australian Research Council (grant nos. DP180100298, DE170100006, DP170102964 and DP180102890). J.L. thanks the Chinese Scholarship Council for a PhD scholarship. J.Z.L. thanks the start-up fund from The University of Melbourne. G.J. thanks the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 21905215) for support. B.D.F.’s work is supported by the Center for Materials for Water and Energy Systems (M-WET), an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under Award No. DE-SC0019272. We acknowledge assistance from B.Qian and X.Chen in the experiments and use of the facilities and assistance from Y.Chen and X.Fang in the Monash Center for Electron Microscopy. We also acknowledge the assistance of resources and services from the National Computational Infrastructure, which is supported by the Australian Government. We acknowledge the assistance of P. Cook in editing the manuscript.
H.Z., H.W., X.L., J.L., B.D.F. and A.J.H. are inventors on an international patent application related to this work filed by Monash University (application no. PCT/AU2018/051341). All other authors have no competing interests.
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Lu, J., Zhang, H., Hou, J. et al. Efficient metal ion sieving in rectifying subnanochannels enabled by metal–organic frameworks. Nat. Mater. 19, 767–774 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-020-0634-7
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