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Two-dimensional adaptive membranes with programmable water and ionic channels

Abstract

Membranes are ubiquitous in nature with primary functions that include adaptive filtering and selective transport of chemical/molecular species. Being critical to cellular functions, they are also fundamental in many areas of science and technology. Of particular importance are the adaptive and programmable membranes that can change their permeability or selectivity depending on the environment. Here, we explore implementation of such biological functions in artificial membranes and demonstrate two-dimensional self-assembled heterostructures of graphene oxide and polyamine macromolecules, forming a network of ionic channels that exhibit regulated permeability of water and monovalent ions. This permeability can be tuned by a change of pH or the presence of certain ions. Unlike traditional membranes, the regulation mechanism reported here relies on specific interactions between the membranes’ internal components and ions. This allows fabrication of membranes with programmable, predetermined permeability and selectivity, governed by the choice of components, their conformation and their charging state.

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Fig. 1: Structure of GO–PA membranes.
Fig. 2: Selective permeability of GO–PA membranes.
Fig. 3: The inner and outer counterion concentrations creating osmotic water flow, as shown by green and red arrows at pH 1, pH 2, pH 4 and pH 7.
Fig. 4: The pH-regulated ion permeability through the GO–PA 25 kDa membrane.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank NRF (Singapore) for financial support through the project Medium-Sized Centre programme R-723-000-001-281, and RSF (Russian Federation) for grant no. 19-19-00508. M.T. thanks the Director’s Senior Research Fellowship of the Centre. K.S.N. also acknowledges support from EU Flagship Programs (Graphene CNECTICT-604391 and 2D-SIPC Quantum Technology), European Research Council Synergy Grant Hetero2D, the Royal Society and EPSRC grants EP/N010345/1, EP/P026850/1 and EP/S030719/1.

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D.V.A., M.T. and K.S.N. conceived and designed the experiments. A.N., M.C.F.C., P.V.C., M.H., K.Y., S.C., S.W.C. and U.M. performed the experiments. A.H.C.N. contributed the materials and analysis tools. D.V.A., M.T. and K.S.N. co-wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kostya S. Novoselov.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Haiping Fang, Ho Bum Park and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–17, Discussion, Methods, Theory and Table 1.

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Andreeva, D.V., Trushin, M., Nikitina, A. et al. Two-dimensional adaptive membranes with programmable water and ionic channels. Nat. Nanotechnol. 16, 174–180 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-020-00795-y

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