A nanofluidic ion regulation membrane with aligned cellulose nanofibers

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Science Advances  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaau4238
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4238


The advancement of nanofluidic applications will require the identification of materials with high-conductivity nanoscale channels that can be readily obtained at massive scale. Inspired by the transpiration in mesostructured trees, we report a nanofluidic membrane consisting of densely packed cellulose nanofibers directly derived from wood. Numerous nanochannels are produced among an expansive array of one-dimensional cellulose nanofibers. The abundant functional groups of cellulose enable facile tuning of the surface charge density via chemical modification. The nanofiber-nanofiber spacing can also be tuned from ~2 to ~20 nm by structural engineering. The surface-charge-governed ionic transport region shows a high ionic conductivity plateau of ~2 mS cm−1 (up to 10 mM). The nanofluidic membrane also exhibits excellent mechanical flexibility, demonstrating stable performance even when the membrane is folded 150°. Combining the inherent advantages of cellulose, this novel class of membrane offers an environmentally responsible strategy for flexible and printable nanofluidic applications.

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