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Molecular Transport through Atomic-scale Capillaries

Dr. Radha Boya (University of Manchester, United Kingdom)
Fri, 23/06/2017 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
CA2DM Theory Common (S16-06)
A/Prof Slaven Garaj
Event Type: 


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. We have developed a method for 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.


B. Radha et al., Molecular transport through capillaries made with atomic-scale precision. Nature 538, 222-225 (2016).


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