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Jan 21, 2021

Researchers develop new graphene nanochannel water filters

Posted by in categories: materials, nanotechnology

When sheets of two-dimensional nanomaterials like graphene are stacked on top of each other, tiny gaps form between the sheets that have a wide variety of potential uses. In research published in the journal Nature Communications, a team of Brown University researchers has found a way to orient those gaps, called nanochannels, in a way that makes them more useful for filtering water and other liquids of nanoscale contaminants.

“In the last decade, a whole field has sprung up to study these spaces that form between 2-D nanomaterials,” said Robert Hurt, a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering and coauthor of the research. “You can grow things in there, you can store things in there, and there’s this emerging field of nanofluidics where you’re using those channels to filter out some molecules while letting others go through.”

There’s a problem, however, with using these nanochannels for filtration, and it has to do with the way those channels are oriented. Like a notebook made from stacked sheets of paper, graphene stacks are thin in the vertical direction compared to their horizontal length and width. That means that the channels between the sheets are likewise oriented horizontally. That’s not ideal for filtration, because liquid has to travel a relatively long way to get from one end of a to the other. It would be better if the channels were perpendicular to the orientation of the sheets. In that case, liquid would only need to traverse the relatively thin vertical height of the stack rather than the much longer length and width.

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