Research ArticleION PUMP

“Uphill” cation transport: A bioinspired photo-driven ion pump

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Science Advances  19 Oct 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 10, e1600689
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600689


Biological ion pumps with active ionic transport properties lay the foundation for many life processes. However, few analogs have been produced because extra energy is needed to couple to this “uphill” process. We demonstrate a bioinspired artificial photo-driven ion pump based on a single polyethylene terephthalate conical nanochannel. The pumping process behaving as an inversion of zero-volt current can be realized by applying ultraviolet irradiation from the large opening. The light energy can accelerate the dissociation of the benzoic acid derivative dimers existing on the inner surface of nanochannel, which consequently produces more mobile carboxyl groups. Enhanced electrostatic interaction between the ions traversing the nanochannel and the charged groups on the inner wall is the key reason for the uphill cation transport behavior. This system creates an ideal experimental and theoretical platform for further development and design of various stimuli-driven and specific ion–selective bioinspired ion pumps, which anticipates wide potential applications in biosensing, energy conversion, and desalination.

  • Bioinspired
  • ion pump
  • active transport
  • nanochannel
  • electrostatic charge

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