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1.
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 7170, 2021 Dec 09.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-34887395

RESUMEN

Two-dimensional crystals with angstrom-scale pores are widely considered as candidates for a next generation of molecular separation technologies aiming to provide extreme, exponentially large selectivity combined with high flow rates. No such pores have been demonstrated experimentally. Here we study gas transport through individual graphene pores created by low intensity exposure to low kV electrons. Helium and hydrogen permeate easily through these pores whereas larger species such as xenon and methane are practically blocked. Permeating gases experience activation barriers that increase quadratically with molecules' kinetic diameter, and the effective diameter of the created pores is estimated as ∼2 angstroms, about one missing carbon ring. Our work reveals stringent conditions for achieving the long sought-after exponential selectivity using porous two-dimensional membranes and suggests limits on their possible performance.

2.
Nature ; 579(7798): 229-232, 2020 03.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32161387

RESUMEN

Despite being only one-atom thick, defect-free graphene is considered to be completely impermeable to all gases and liquids1-10. This conclusion is based on theory3-8 and supported by experiments1,9,10 that could not detect gas permeation through micrometre-size membranes within a detection limit of 105 to 106 atoms per second. Here, using small monocrystalline containers tightly sealed with graphene, we show that defect-free graphene is impermeable with an accuracy of eight to nine orders of magnitude higher than in the previous experiments. We are capable of discerning (but did not observe) permeation of just a few helium atoms per hour, and this detection limit is also valid for all other gases tested (neon, nitrogen, oxygen, argon, krypton and xenon), except for hydrogen. Hydrogen shows noticeable permeation, even though its molecule is larger than helium and should experience a higher energy barrier. This puzzling observation is attributed to a two-stage process that involves dissociation of molecular hydrogen at catalytically active graphene ripples, followed by adsorbed atoms flipping to the other side of the graphene sheet with a relatively low activation energy of about 1.0 electronvolt, a value close to that previously reported for proton transport11,12. Our work provides a key reference for the impermeability of two-dimensional materials and is important from a fundamental perspective and for their potential applications.

3.
Nat Commun ; 10(1): 4243, 2019 Sep 18.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31534140

RESUMEN

Defect-free monolayers of graphene and hexagonal boron nitride are surprisingly permeable to thermal protons, despite being completely impenetrable to all gases. It remains untested whether small ions can permeate through the two-dimensional crystals. Here we show that mechanically exfoliated graphene and hexagonal boron nitride exhibit perfect Nernst selectivity such that only protons can permeate through, with no detectable flow of counterions. In the experiments, we use suspended monolayers that have few, if any, atomic-scale defects, as shown by gas permeation tests, and place them to separate reservoirs filled with hydrochloric acid solutions. Protons account for all the electrical current and chloride ions are blocked. This result corroborates the previous conclusion that thermal protons can pierce defect-free two-dimensional crystals. Besides the importance for theoretical developments, our results are also of interest for research on various separation technologies based on two-dimensional materials.

4.
Nat Nanotechnol ; 14(10): 962-966, 2019 10.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31477802

RESUMEN

Monolayers of graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) are highly permeable to thermal protons1,2. For thicker two-dimensional (2D) materials, proton conductivity diminishes exponentially, so that, for example, monolayer MoS2 that is just three atoms thick is completely impermeable to protons1. This seemed to suggest that only one-atom-thick crystals could be used as proton-conducting membranes. Here, we show that few-layer micas that are rather thick on the atomic scale become excellent proton conductors if native cations are ion-exchanged for protons. Their areal conductivity exceeds that of graphene and hBN by one to two orders of magnitude. Importantly, ion-exchanged 2D micas exhibit this high conductivity inside the infamous gap for proton-conducting materials3, which extends from ∼100 °C to 500 °C. Areal conductivity of proton-exchanged monolayer micas can reach above 100 S cm-2 at 500 °C, well above the current requirements for the industry roadmap4. We attribute the fast proton permeation to ~5-Å-wide tubular channels that perforate micas' crystal structure, which, after ion exchange, contain only hydroxyl groups inside. Our work indicates that there could be other 2D crystals5 with similar nanometre-scale channels, which could help close the materials gap in proton-conducting applications.

5.
Science ; 363(6423): 145-148, 2019 01 11.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30630924

RESUMEN

It has long been an aspirational goal to create artificial structures that allow fast permeation of water but reject even the smallest hydrated ions, replicating the feat achieved by nature in protein channels (e.g., aquaporins). Despite recent progress in creating nanoscale pores and capillaries, these structures still remain distinctly larger than protein channels. We report capillaries made by effectively extracting one atomic plane from bulk crystals, which leaves a two-dimensional slit of a few angstroms in height. Water moves through these capillaries with little resistance, whereas no permeation could be detected even for such small ions as Na+ and Cl- Only protons (H+) can diffuse through monolayer water inside the capillaries. These observations improve our understanding of molecular transport at the atomic scale.

6.
Nat Nanotechnol ; 13(6): 468-472, 2018 06.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29556005

RESUMEN

Atoms start behaving as waves rather than classical particles if confined in spaces commensurate with their de Broglie wavelength. At room temperature this length is only about one ångström even for the lightest atom, hydrogen. This restricts quantum-confinement phenomena for atomic species to the realm of very low temperatures1-5. Here, we show that van der Waals gaps between atomic planes of layered crystals provide ångström-size channels that make quantum confinement of protons apparent even at room temperature. Our transport measurements show that thermal protons experience a notably higher barrier than deuterons when entering van der Waals gaps in hexagonal boron nitride and molybdenum disulfide. This is attributed to the difference in the de Broglie wavelengths of the isotopes. Once inside the crystals, transport of both isotopes can be described by classical diffusion, albeit with unexpectedly fast rates comparable to that of protons in water. The demonstrated ångström-size channels can be exploited for further studies of atomistic quantum confinement and, if the technology can be scaled up, for sieving hydrogen isotopes.

7.
Nat Commun ; 8: 15215, 2017 05 09.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-28485380

RESUMEN

Thousands of tons of isotopic mixtures are processed annually for heavy-water production and tritium decontamination. The existing technologies remain extremely energy intensive and require large capital investments. New approaches are needed to reduce the industry's footprint. Recently, micrometre-size crystals of graphene are shown to act as efficient sieves for hydrogen isotopes pumped through graphene electrochemically. Here we report a fully-scalable approach, using graphene obtained by chemical vapour deposition, which allows a proton-deuteron separation factor of around 8, despite cracks and imperfections. The energy consumption is projected to be orders of magnitude smaller with respect to existing technologies. A membrane based on 30 m2 of graphene, a readily accessible amount, could provide a heavy-water output comparable to that of modern plants. Even higher efficiency is expected for tritium separation. With no fundamental obstacles for scaling up, the technology's simplicity, efficiency and green credentials call for consideration by the nuclear and related industries.

8.
Nature ; 538(7624): 222-225, 2016 Oct 13.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-27602512

RESUMEN

Nanometre-scale pores and capillaries have long been studied because of their importance in many natural phenomena and their use in numerous applications. A more recent development is the ability to fabricate artificial capillaries with nanometre dimensions, which has enabled new research on molecular transport and led to the emergence of nanofluidics. But surface roughness in particular makes it challenging to produce capillaries with precisely controlled dimensions at this spatial scale. Here we report the fabrication of narrow and smooth capillaries through van der Waals assembly, with atomically flat sheets at the top and bottom separated by spacers made of two-dimensional crystals with a precisely controlled number of layers. We use graphene and its multilayers as archetypal two-dimensional materials to demonstrate this technology, which produces structures that can be viewed as if individual atomic planes had been removed from a bulk crystal to leave behind flat voids of a height chosen with atomic-scale precision. Water transport through the channels, ranging in height from one to several dozen atomic planes, is characterized by unexpectedly fast flow (up to 1 metre per second) that we attribute to high capillary pressures (about 1,000 bar) and large slip lengths. For channels that accommodate only a few layers of water, the flow exhibits a marked enhancement that we associate with an increased structural order in nanoconfined water. Our work opens up an avenue to making capillaries and cavities with sizes tunable to ångström precision, and with permeation properties further controlled through a wide choice of atomically flat materials available for channel walls.

9.
Science ; 351(6268): 68-70, 2016 Jan 01.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-26721995

RESUMEN

One-atom-thick crystals are impermeable to atoms and molecules, but hydrogen ions (thermal protons) penetrate through them. We show that monolayers of graphene and boron nitride can be used to separate hydrogen ion isotopes. Using electrical measurements and mass spectrometry, we found that deuterons permeate through these crystals much slower than protons, resulting in a separation factor of ≈10 at room temperature. The isotope effect is attributed to a difference of ≈60 milli-electron volts between zero-point energies of incident protons and deuterons, which translates into the equivalent difference in the activation barriers posed by two-dimensional crystals. In addition to providing insight into the proton transport mechanism, the demonstrated approach offers a competitive and scalable way for hydrogen isotope enrichment.

10.
Nature ; 516(7530): 227-30, 2014 Dec 11.
Artículo en Inglés | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-25470058

RESUMEN

Graphene is increasingly explored as a possible platform for developing novel separation technologies. This interest has arisen because it is a maximally thin membrane that, once perforated with atomic accuracy, may allow ultrafast and highly selective sieving of gases, liquids, dissolved ions and other species of interest. However, a perfect graphene monolayer is impermeable to all atoms and molecules under ambient conditions: even hydrogen, the smallest of atoms, is expected to take billions of years to penetrate graphene's dense electronic cloud. Only accelerated atoms possess the kinetic energy required to do this. The same behaviour might reasonably be expected in the case of other atomically thin crystals. Here we report transport and mass spectroscopy measurements which establish that monolayers of graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (hBN) are highly permeable to thermal protons under ambient conditions, whereas no proton transport is detected for thicker crystals such as monolayer molybdenum disulphide, bilayer graphene or multilayer hBN. Protons present an intermediate case between electrons (which can tunnel easily through atomically thin barriers) and atoms, yet our measured transport rates are unexpectedly high and raise fundamental questions about the details of the transport process. We see the highest room-temperature proton conductivity with monolayer hBN, for which we measure a resistivity to proton flow of about 10 Ω cm(2) and a low activation energy of about 0.3 electronvolts. At higher temperatures, hBN is outperformed by graphene, the resistivity of which is estimated to fall below 10(-3) Ω cm(2) above 250 degrees Celsius. Proton transport can be further enhanced by decorating the graphene and hBN membranes with catalytic metal nanoparticles. The high, selective proton conductivity and stability make one-atom-thick crystals promising candidates for use in many hydrogen-based technologies.

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