Molecular Origin of Fast Water Transport in Carbon Nanotube Membranes: Superlubricity versus Curvature Dependent Friction

In this paper, we study the interfacial friction of water at graphitic interfaces with various topologies, water between planar graphene sheets, inside and outside carbon nanotubes, with the goal to disentangle confinement and curvature effects on friction. We show that the friction coefficient exhibits a strong curvature dependence; while friction is independent of confinement for the graphene slab, it decreases with carbon nanotube radius for water inside, but increases for water outside. As a paradigm the friction coefficient is found to vanish below a threshold diameter for armchair nanotubes. Using a statistical description of the interfacial friction, we highlight here a structural origin of this curvature dependence, mainly associated with a curvature-induced incommensurability between the water and carbon structures. These results support the recent experiments reporting fast transport of water in nanometric carbon nanotube membranes.