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Transport and dispersion across wiggling nanopores


The transport of fluids at the nanoscale has achieved major breakthroughs over recent years1,2,3,4; however, artificial channels still cannot match the efficiency of biological porins in terms of fluxes or selectivity. Pore shape agitation—due to thermal fluctuations or in response to external stimuli—is believed to facilitate transport in biochannels5,6,7,8,9, but its impact on transport in artificial pores remains largely unexplored. Here we introduce a general theory for transport through thermally or actively fluctuating channels, which quantifies the impact of pore fluctuations on confined diffusion in terms of the spectral statistics of the channel fluctuations. Our findings demonstrate a complex interplay between transport and surface wiggling: agitation enhances diffusion via the induced fluid flow, but spatial variations in pore geometry can induce a slowing down via entropic trapping, in full agreement with molecular dynamics simulations and existing observations from the literature. Our results elucidate the impact of pore agitation in a broad range of artificial and biological porins, but also, at larger scales, in vascular motion in fungi, intestinal contractions and microfluidic surface waves. These results open up the possibility that transport across membranes can be actively tuned by external stimuli, with potential applications to nanoscale pumping, osmosis and dynamical ultrafiltration.

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Fig. 1: Spectral mixing under interface fluctuations.
Fig. 2: Renormalized diffusion under thermally fluctuating and actively driven surfaces.
Fig. 3: Enhanced or decreased transport under pore shape wiggling versus the dimensionless Péclet-like number for various fluid transporters.


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The authors are indebted to B. Rotenberg for several fruitful discussions on molecular dynamics, and to K. Alim for bringing to the discussion biologically related examples. The authors also thank F.-X. Courdert, D.avid Lacoste and J.-F. Joanny for interesting discussions. S.M. acknowledges funding from a J.-P. Aguilar grant of the CFM foundation. D.S.D. acknowledges funding from the ANR grant FISICS. L.B. acknowledges support from ANR grant Neptune. This work was granted access to the HPC resources of MesoPSL financed by the Region Ile de France and the project Equip@Meso (reference ANR-10-EQPX-29-01) of the programme Investissements d’Avenir supervised by the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche.

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L.B. designed the research. S.M., D.S.D. and L.B. conducted research. S.M. carried out the molecular dynamics simulations. S.M., D.S.D. and L.B. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Lydéric Bocquet.

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Marbach, S., Dean, D.S. & Bocquet, L. Transport and dispersion across wiggling nanopores. Nature Phys 14, 1108–1113 (2018).

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