Monodispersed angstrom-size pores embedded in a suitable matrix are promising for highly selective membrane-based separations. They can provide substantial energy savings in water treatment and small molecule bioseparations. Such pores present as membrane proteins (chiefly aquaporin-based) are commonplace in biological membranes but difficult to implement in synthetic industrial membranes and have modest selectivity without tunable selectivity. Here we present PoreDesigner, a design workflow to redesign the robust beta-barrel Outer Membrane Protein F as a scaffold to access three specific pore designs that exclude solutes larger than sucrose (>360 Da), glucose (>180 Da), and salt (>58 Da) respectively. PoreDesigner also enables us to design any specified pore size (spanning 3–10 Å), engineer its pore profile, and chemistry. These redesigned pores may be ideal for conducting sub-nm aqueous separations with permeabilities exceeding those of classical biological water channels, aquaporins, by more than an order of magnitude at over 10 billion water molecules per channel per second.
Molecular sieving may occur when two molecules compete for a nanopore. In nearly all known examples, the nanopore is larger than the molecule that selectively enters the pore. Here, we experimentally demonstrate the ability of single-wall carbon nanotubes with a van der Waals pore size of 0.42 nm to separate n-hexane from cyclohexane—despite the fact that both molecules have kinetic diameters larger than the rigid nanopore. This unexpected finding challenges our current understanding of nanopore selectivity and how molecules may enter a tight channel. Ab initio molecular dynamics simulations reveal that n-hexane molecules stretch by nearly 11.2% inside the nanotube pore. Although at a relatively low probability (28.5% overall), the stretched state of n-hexane does exist in the bulk solution, allowing the molecule to enter the tight pore even at room temperature. These insights open up opportunities to engineer nanopore selectivity based on the molecular degrees of freedom.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Nature Publishing Group
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Nature Communications
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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