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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Robust natural nanocomposites realizing unprecedented ultrafast precise molecular separations


Synthetic polymer membranes can potentially reduce the large energy and carbon footprints that are typically associated with traditional chemical separation technologies. Unfortunately, current production protocols negate the green benefits of membrane separation. To address this bottleneck, here we report the use of natural materials monosaccharide – glucose and polydopamine and Zr-based metal organic frameworks (MOFs) to fabricate ultrathin nanocomposite membranes via interfacial polymerization reaction. The synergistic effect of these three materials on angstrom-scale molecular transport both in organic solvent and aqueous environment was elucidated using a series of complementary techniques. We demonstrate such nature-inspired nanocomposite membranes enable structural stability even in polar aprotic solvents, and unparalleled ultra-fast, low-pressure, precise separations in both nanofiltration modes, which easily surpass state-of-the-art membranes relying on unsustainable materials. The multi-functionality of saccharide nanocomposites was elegantly harnessed to impact separation applications that contribute towards a better living environment.

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