Debate regarding the transport mechanisms of water and ions in highly charged one-dimensional (1D) nanochannel continues because of a lack of available experimental data. Here, we present a nanofluidic platform consisting of ≈2.7-nm-diameter boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) as a model system, and report the experimental ion transport in these sub-3-nm BNNTs. We elucidate that strong electrostatic interactions between the highly charged tube walls and ions, stemming from the high surface-charge density (378 mC/m2) of BNNTs, play important roles in defining the ion transport mechanism in BNNT pores. Experimental analysis of ion transports supported by numerical the Donnan steric pore model with dielectric exclusion (DSPM-DE) and Derjaguin–Landau–Verwey–Overbeek (DLVO) model elucidate the relationship of the ionic charge density and surface-charge density of the BNNT wall to electrostatic interaction, steric, and dielectric effects. We also demonstrate that BNNTs exhibit higher NaCl separation (≈90%) than commercial reverse-osmosis (≈80%) and nanofiltration (≈60%) membranes under the same experimental conditions, despite having a larger pore size. Our results establish design criteria for developing highly efficient ion-selective membranes for various practical applications.

Intrinsic ion transport of highly charged sub-3-nm boron nitride nanotubes

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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2022.09.006