Atomically thin mechanosensitive membranes for water treatment

Creating a sense of touch for 2D materials

Mechanosensitive ion channels are found in all types of cells and are responsible for senses that are essential for life such as the senses of touch, hearing and balance. These channels fulfil these functions thanks to the sensitivity of their ion transport properties towards the mechanical deformations of their membrane. Nanotubes and 2D-heterostructured materials have demonstrated pressure-sensitive effects analogous to biological mechanosensitive ion channels and voltage-gated water transport, and membranes based on nanoporous 2D materials like graphene, hexagonal boron nitride, or molybdenum disulfide are known for desalination applications, nanofiltration, or osmotic power generation. All of these applications involve either hydraulic or osmotic pressure acting on the material and supporting membranes, yet little is known about how nanopores in such quasi-2D membranes behave under pressure-induced stress. Preliminary theoretical work indicates that 2D materials could be used as a platform to demonstrate artificial mechanosensitivity that can be used for application in water filtration. In this project, we aim to experimentally probe mechanosensitive responses in artificial nanopores through a combination of experimental and computational methods.

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