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Phys Rev Lett. 2013 Dec 13;111(24):244501. Epub 2013 Dec 11.

Nanofluidic osmotic diodes: theory and molecular dynamics simulations.

Author information

1
Institut Lumière Matière, UMR5306 Université Lyon 1-CNRS, Université de Lyon 69622 Villeurbanne, France.
2
Laboratoire interdisciplinaire de Physique, UMR5588 Université Joseph Fourier-CNRS 38402 Grenoble, France.
3
Institut Lumière Matière, UMR5306 Université Lyon 1-CNRS, Université de Lyon 69622 Villeurbanne, France and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139-4307, USA.

Abstract

Osmosis describes the flow of water across semipermeable membranes powered by the chemical free energy extracted from salinity gradients. While osmosis can be expressed in simple terms via the van 't Hoff ideal gas formula for the osmotic pressure, it is a complex phenomenon taking its roots in the subtle interactions occurring at the scale of the membrane nanopores. Here we use new opportunities offered by nanofluidic systems to create an osmotic diode exhibiting asymmetric water flow under reversal of osmotic driving. We show that a surface charge asymmetry built on a nanochannel surface leads to nonlinear couplings between water flow and the ion dynamics, which are capable of water flow rectification. This phenomenon opens new opportunities for water purification and complex flow control in nanochannels.

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