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Nat Commun ; 11(1): 1097, 2020 02 27.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32107369


Manipulating the surface energy, and thereby the wetting properties of solids, has promise for various physical, chemical, biological and industrial processes. Typically, this is achieved by either chemical modification or by controlling the hierarchical structures of surfaces. Here we report a phenomenon whereby the wetting properties of vermiculite laminates are controlled by the hydrated cations on the surface and in the interlamellar space. We find that vermiculite laminates can be tuned from superhydrophilic to hydrophobic simply by exchanging the cations; hydrophilicity decreases with increasing cation hydration free energy, except for lithium. The lithium-exchanged vermiculite laminate is found to provide a superhydrophilic surface due to its anomalous hydrated structure at the vermiculite surface. Building on these findings, we demonstrate the potential application of superhydrophilic lithium exchanged vermiculite as a thin coating layer on microfiltration membranes to resist fouling, and thus, we address a major challenge for oil-water separation technology.

Nature ; 559(7713): 236-240, 2018 07.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29995867


Controlled transport of water molecules through membranes and capillaries is important in areas as diverse as water purification and healthcare technologies1-7. Previous attempts to control water permeation through membranes (mainly polymeric ones) have concentrated on modulating the structure of the membrane and the physicochemical properties of its surface by varying the pH, temperature or ionic strength3,8. Electrical control over water transport is an attractive alternative; however, theory and simulations9-14 have often yielded conflicting results, from freezing of water molecules to melting of ice14-16 under an applied electric field. Here we report electrically controlled water permeation through micrometre-thick graphene oxide membranes17-21. Such membranes have previously been shown to exhibit ultrafast permeation of water17,22 and molecular sieving properties18,21, with the potential for industrial-scale production. To achieve electrical control over water permeation, we create conductive filaments in the graphene oxide membranes via controllable electrical breakdown. The electric field that concentrates around these current-carrying filaments ionizes water molecules inside graphene capillaries within the graphene oxide membranes, which impedes water transport. We thus demonstrate precise control of water permeation, from ultrafast permeation to complete blocking. Our work opens up an avenue for developing smart membrane technologies for artificial biological systems, tissue engineering and filtration.

Nat Mater ; 16(12): 1198-1202, 2017 12.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29170556


Graphene oxide (GO) membranes continue to attract intense interest due to their unique molecular sieving properties combined with fast permeation. However, their use is limited to aqueous solutions because GO membranes appear impermeable to organic solvents, a phenomenon not yet fully understood. Here, we report efficient and fast filtration of organic solutions through GO laminates containing smooth two-dimensional (2D) capillaries made from large (10-20 µm) flakes. Without modification of sieving characteristics, these membranes can be made exceptionally thin, down to ∼10 nm, which translates into fast water and organic solvent permeation. We attribute organic solvent permeation and sieving properties to randomly distributed pinholes interconnected by short graphene channels with a width of 1 nm. With increasing membrane thickness, organic solvent permeation rates decay exponentially but water continues to permeate quickly, in agreement with previous reports. The potential of ultrathin GO laminates for organic solvent nanofiltration is demonstrated by showing >99.9% rejection of small molecular weight organic dyes dissolved in methanol. Our work significantly expands possibilities for the use of GO membranes in purification and filtration technologies.