Voltage-Gated Transport of Nanoparticles across Free-Standing All-Carbon-Nanotube-Based Hollow-Fiber Membranes

Understanding the mechanism underlying controllable transmembrane transport observed in biological membranes benefits the development of next-generation separation membranes for a variety of important applications. In this work, on the basis of common structural features of cell membranes, a very simple biomimetic membrane system exhibiting gated transmembrane performance has been constructed using all-carbon-nanotube (CNT)-based hollow-fiber membranes. The conductive CNT membranes with hydrophobic pore channels can be positively or negatively charged and are consequently capable of regulating the transport of nanoparticles across their pore channels by their “opening” or “closing”. The switch between penetration and rejection of nanoparticles through/by CNT membranes is of high efficiency and especially allows dynamic control. The underlying mechanism is that CNT pore channels with different polarities can prompt or prevent the formation of their noncovalent interactions with charged nanoparticles, resulting in their rejection or penetration by/through the CNT membranes. The theory about noncovalent interactions and charged pore channels may provide new insight into understanding the complicated ionically and bimolecularly gated transport across cell membranes and can contribute to many other important applications beyond the water purification and resource recovery demonstrated in this study.